Work begins to open St. John charter school for 2018-19

Published 12:14 am Wednesday, June 7, 2017

RESERVE — Numerous checklist items must be accomplished in the coming months for Louisiana Premiere Charter School to open in St. John the Baptist Parish for the fall of 2018.

The charter school effort — a first for St. John — cleared a major hurdle May 31 when St. John Parish School Board members took the extraordinary step of rescinding a previous vote and approving Louisiana Premiere as a Type 1 Charter School, meaning it will operate in tandem with St. John Public Schools and is subject to some local school board oversight.

As stated in their application, Louisiana Premiere leaders plan to operate the school at 3556 W. Airline Highway through a lease from Lifehouse Church — where Reserve Christian used to operate — a site that includes 18.6 acres, three classroom buildings, gymnasium, kitchen and cafeteria.

St. John Public Schools Superintendent Kevin George said School Board approval came with stipulations, including:

• The charter school board must provide a concrete plan for leadership — specifically the plan for transition in the event that the founding leadership is unsuccessful. The applicants were not clear that board leadership would be willing to remove the founding leader in the event the founding leader is unsuccessful.

• The applicants indicated they will choose a new ELA curriculum for grades kindergarten through second that meets state guidelines.

• The school district and charter school discussed enrollment criteria — these criteria (inclusive of enrollment requirements and grade configurations) need to be agreed to and adopted by the charter board prior to issuance of a contract.

• The applicant must meet pre-opening requirements prior to the execution of the final contract.

George said St. John Public Schools is sending a letter to Louisiana Premiere leaders this week outlining the School Board’s most recent action.

“We will start to arrange meetings with the charter group and whatever personnel they want us to meet with to work on those conditions,” George said. “The state also requires a set of pre-opening requirements that the Charter group has to complete before they can open the school.

“They can open as early as August of 2018 but it is totally dependent on how quickly they get their pre-opening requirements done and how quickly we can negotiate the conditions that the St. John School Board wants to address.”

In their application, Louisiana Premier Charter School leaders said the school would initially serve kindergarten through ninth grade students, with the addition of grades 10th, 11th and 12th planned in future school years.

“LAPC seeks to achieve a racial and socioeconomic balance reflective of St. John Parish schools for its students as evidenced by enrollment and economic data reported by the Louisiana Department of Education,” the application reads.

The charter school noted the public school district enrolls 5,759 students, with more than 2,000 St. John students in private schools and “at least 500 students” home schooled or attending school in a neighboring district.

“Our target first year enrollment of 575 students would represent about 10 percent of the public school enrollment and less than 10 percent of total enrollment in the district,” the application reads. “This level is lower than all of the other charter schools in the state that are the only charter school in their rural parish and is therefore a reasonable target.”

Louisiana Premier officials said the public school district is approximately 78 percent black, 13 percent white, seven percent Hispanic and less than one percent for students designated as other ethnicities.

“As reported on St. John the Baptist Parish District’s Report Card, 11 percent of the population is special education and 86 percent is economically disadvantaged,” the application reads. “LAPC will enroll throughout the district and expects to enroll a student population consistent with these percentages.”

Louisiana Premiere Charter School officials indicated they plan to actively recruit in minority communities to ensure a diverse student body and operate in compliance with the Parish Desegregation Court Order.

“Over the upcoming months we will hold informational meetings and post application information in churches and community centers in diverse neighborhoods,” school officials said. “LAPC will hold an open enrollment period for a minimum 30-day period in January and February 2018. Students will be notified by mail of their acceptance. LAPC will hold a lottery if enrollment applications for each grade level exceed capacity. Once the number of spaces have been filled, waiting lists will be generated. Siblings will be given preference on the waiting list. Remaining applicants will be placed on the waiting list in the order the application is received.”

Louisiana Premiere leaders tentatively scheduled parent and community information nights July 28 at New Wine Fellowship in LaPlace and Aug. 9 at LifeHouse Church in Reserve.