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Charter school not initially focusing on public school student recruitment

RESERVE — Louisiana Premier Charter School leaders will not target students currently enrolled in St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools.

Education officials with both institutions made the agreement in advance of Louisiana Premier’s planned opening this August.

The St. John Parish Public School Board approved Louisiana Premier in 2017 as a Type I Charter, kick-starting a partnership between the entities in which they each sign a Type I Charter Contract.

While the contract has yet to be signed, officials with each institution said a recruitment strategy for future charter students has been agreed to, although the exact verbiage is still being hashed out.

“A lot of the founders of the Charter School felt there was a tremendous amount of  (St. John) families that were not using the (Public School District),” Louisiana Premier Board President Mark Roussel said.

“The District sees that, as well. One of the missions of the charter is to bring a lot of children who are not in (local public) schools back into District schools, and the charter school will be within the District.”

St. John Public Schools Superintendent Kevin George said the District requested the recruitment strategy addendum because Louisiana Premier’s initial application indicated many local parents were choosing to send their children to private schools or outside of the parish.

“If that is the case, we said, put your money where your mouth is, recruit those kids that are currently going to private schools or currently going to schools outside this parish,” George said this month during a St. John School Board committee meeting.

“We’re not saying public school children cannot go; we’re saying you give first preference to kids that are not currently in the public school system and then, if you still don’t meet your limit, go ahead an accept kids (from the public school system).”

Roussel and George each said the recruitment stipulation would only stay in effect through the charter’s first couple of years.

Opening

Louisiana Premier Charter is facing a tight deadline to open this summer.

Charter leaders and St. John the Baptist Public Schools officials have been in correspondence and negotiation since June but have yet to come to terms on a contract, a necessary precursor for the Charter’s launch.

To open for August and serve students during the 2018-19 academic year, Louisiana Premier officials told L’OBSERVATEUR the contract would have to be approved by February.

Approval

The charter school effort cleared a major hurdle in May 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 Premier shared a tentative agreement 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.

In their application, Louisiana Premier 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.”