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School Board tables approval of Charter’s move to Riverside Academy campus

RESERVE — Louisiana Premier Charter School’s hope for local approval to open on the campus of Riverside Academy will have to wait at least another couple of weeks after St. John the Baptist Parish School Board members tabled action on the issue Thursday night.

Ty Manieri, an attorney with Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice, represents the public school district in its negotiations with the charter organization.

Manieri told Board members the charter school provided a site location review and lease agreement March 23. According to Manieri, a review of the information led to numerous “red light” concerns, which were sent back to Louisiana Premier Charter three days later.

Manieri told School Board members Thursday night that Louisiana Premier Charter has not responded to those concerns and; therefore, he recommended tabling action on the site location until all concerns are addressed.

Those concerns were not shared at the meeting; and a possible chance for Charter response — numerous Charter representatives were at the meeting — was delayed.

Two parents spoke at Thursday’s meeting, passionately asking Board members to approve Louisiana Premier Charter’s request to open at the Riverside Academy campus. The parents each stated more tuition-free schooling options are needed in St. John Parish.

Following Thursday’s meeting, Superintendent Kevin George shared some of the lease concerns with L’OBSERVATEUR.

• The eviction procedures do not protect the charter school and could result in the school being without a site in the middle of a school year.  Proposed provisions would allow the charter school to be evicted in less than a month under certain circumstances.

• The building upkeep and lease expiration procedures do not adequately protect the financial interests of the charter school and the school district.  The proposed provisions require the charter school to provide most maintenance (including replacement, if needed) for the building and its systems.

• The proposed lease includes conflicting provisions addressing legal liability for incidents that take place on the campus.

The School Board approved an initial agreement last year with Louisiana Premier Charter, clearing the way for the Charter School to attempt to open in St. John Parish for the 2019-20 academic year.

Louisiana Premier Charter must still receive approval from a federal desegregation judge, the Department of Justice and finalize an operating agreement with the School Board.

On Thursday, the School Board did approve a generic charter school policy that establishes guidelines for all future charter agreements — with Louisiana Premier Charter or other possible entities.

The approval allows Louisiana Premier Charter to seek more than $300,000 in federal grant money to help with start-up expenses.

Officials with the charter school and Riverside Academy say both institutions can operate on the campus separately.