Dec 132012
 

The building in the 1500 block of Thalia being considered as a satellite site for the International School of Louisiana. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The International School of Louisiana is growing increasingly interested in an office building on Thalia Street a short walk from the Camp Street campus as a way to ease crowding issues there, but school leaders are also beginning to see it as a stepping stone to a larger new campus for the school several years down the road.

In the short term, ISL leaders are also still considering modular buildings in the courtyard of the Camp Street campus, but that option’s drawbacks are well established. The common spaces of the Camp Street building, such as the cafeteria, would come under further strain with even more students at the campus, while the open space would be significantly reduced. Further, the annual rent on the modulars would likely cost more than the lease at Thalia Street, Head of Schools Sean Wilson told a group of parents and board members at an informal discussion meeting Thursday.

The Thalia Street campus creates its own issues, and some services would have to be replicated at both facilities. But it would take some pressure off of Camp Street, while keeping the children close enough to return to the main building for extracurricular activities.

Which group of children would move out of Camp Street received some consideration Thursday as well. Two of the options were fairly obvious — moving out the kindergarten and first grade to create a “primary school,” or moving out grades six through eight for a middle school. But a third option — separating the fourth and fifth grades — might be the best from an academic and cultural standpoint, said Camp Street principal Melanie Tennyson.

School leaders strongly believe that the kindergarten students need the upper grades as role models, because much of a student’s first year at school is just learning to behave and socialize in a school setting, Tennyson said. Likewise, the opportunity to serve as role models is beneficial for the middle-school students during what can be a fairly awkward period in their social development, she said. Fourth and fifth grade students are more stable developmentally — more mature than the younger kids, but not yet dealing with all the pressures of adolescence — and they might thrive if given their own space, she said.

Further, the state’s high-stakes testing is conducted in the fourth grade, and a separate space might have fewer distractions as they prepare for that. And logistically, the older kids are easier for teacher to walk down the four blocks back to Camp Street for after-care, the library, or other amenities at the main building, Tennyson said.

However, the entire discussion has brought school leaders to the realization that the Camp Street building is no longer ideal for the school. The school admits 100 students to kindergarten every year, but because a few leave each year who cannot be replaced because of the school’s full-language immersion curriculum, those numbers dwindle in the upper grades. Thus, the total projection for grades kindergarten through eighth grade is about 650 or 700 students — more than Camp Street can hold, said board president Andrew Yon.

Because administrators believe the best configuration would keep all students under a single roof, school leaders now envision a move to a larger campus in five years or so, and will begin exploring that possibility even as they solve the short-term crowding problem, Yon said.

“We’re trying to come up with a short-term solution that really works for a couple of years while we look for a permanent, long-term solution,” Yon said.

No decisions were made at Thursday night’s meeting — Yon said it was just intended to continue discussing options. The board hopes to make a final decision in January.

To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below:

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  • Unsatisfied ex ISL family

    This is the topic that ISL leaders should have kept their focus on rather than expanding the charter with more schools in locations no where near this one. Remember there are other logistics to keep in mind: library, cafeteria, drop off/ pick up times, other support staff and after school activities.