Charter school’s 2018 opening in St. John unlikely, lawyer says

Published 12:13 am Wednesday, May 2, 2018

LAPLACE — Without a signed contract in place, chances remain slim that Louisiana Premier Charter School will open to serve St. John the Baptist Parish students for 2018-19.

“There is a very minimal possibility that it can open for 2018-19 based upon our experience with desegregation cases and how long it would take the court to approve,” Courtney Joiner said. “It could be six or seven months before they can make a decision on when to accept.”

Joiner, an attorney with Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice, represents St. John Parish Public Schools in its negotiations with the charter organization. Joiner shared his opinion last week with School Board members during the group’s Thursday public meeting.

The St. John School Board previously approved Louisiana Premier as a Type I Charter, kick-starting a limited partnership between the entities in which each signs a Type I Charter Contract. When agreed to, the charter school would function as a public school providing St. John parents and students another tuition-free option.

Once both parties agree to a contract, it must be submitted to federal court for approval, a process Joiner says is unlikely to finish in time to launch a school for the next academic year.

Louisiana Premier Board President Mark Roussel did not respond last week or this week to L’OBSERVATEUR’s requests for comment.

As far as the contract, Joiner said the terms are pretty much done with two exceptions: grade configuration and student count.

Public Schools officials said Louisiana Premier is asking to launch the charter school as a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade campus in years 1 and 2 before expanding to kindergarten-through-12th-grade in year 3.

The charter is asking to begin with 60 students per grade in the first two years before taking in 75 students per grade in high school levels starting in year 3.

St. John Public Schools Superintendent Kevin George said the School District’s next move is to introduce the contract in final form for review and adoption at this month’s first Executive Committee meeting.

“The Board members can at that point make adjustments, make suggestions and then recommend to the full Board either approval or something other than that,” George said.

“I have no problem with the K-8 format, but I would like to reserve my opinion on increasing the number of students until after I have had a chance to digest it.”

According to Joiner, there is a longstanding desegregation case pending in St. John Parish, which is similar to others like it across the state.

“Although it may not be active or contentious, there is a standing order consent decree that has to be followed,” Joiner said. “This Parish is being monitored by the federal court. In order for the charter school to open, once everything is finalized, you have to get the green light from the federal court.”

Louisiana Premier has a tentative agreement to operate at 3556 W. Airline Highway through a lease from Lifehouse Church — where Reserve Christian used to operate. The site includes 18.6 acres, classroom buildings, gymnasium, kitchen and cafeteria.