The International School of Louisiana is set to begin negotiating a lease for a building on Thalia Street that could create 10 classes for its fourth- and fifth-grade students next year, easing overcrowding at its main Camp Street campus for the foreseeable future and ending a controversy that three months ago had many parents considering leaving the school.
While ISL has not added new classes at its Camp Street building, increasing numbers of students are remaining at the school into the upper grades, straining the building’s capacity of roughly 600. Rooms that were once used for art or other enrichment activities were converted into more homerooms, and administrators have known for months that no more space would be available for the students who return next year.
The satellite campus at 1516-30 Thalia St., currently an office building, will be converted into 10 classrooms to hold the school’s fourth and fifth grade classes, with two enrichment-style classes for them. The middle grades were chosen for a variety of reasons: Logistically, they can walk back to Camp Street with a teacher for services like the library or after-care with relative ease, unlike younger children. Academically, it allows them a quieter atmosphere to concentrate on high-stakes testing in those grades. And culturally, the youngest children need role models and the oldest need the opportunity to feel they are leaders, school officials have said, and pulling fourth- and fifth-grade students out lets them be their own unit, instead of just “in between.”
A number of details still need to be worked out in the lease, Head of Schools Sean Wilson reported to the International School’s governing board Wednesday night. One section of the building is still occupied by a tenant, so ISL may get only partial use of the building next year. The renovations that will be needed to accommodate the classes and a cafeteria must also be approved by the building owner.
After the board voted to authorize Wilson to begin negotiating the lease, Wilson said he expects to have the details of it by the February meeting.
The decision, which comes after other options were eliminated over the course of several public meetings, received no opposition from the audience of staff members and a few parents — a far cry from three months ago, when a now-abandoned idea to send upper-grade students to the Westbank campus had dozens of families saying they might pull their children out.
Live video of the Wednesday’s meeting is at the top of this post, and our live coverage of it can be seen below.