As progress moves forward on stabilizing both the Willow Street elementary campus and the Fortier campus for upper grades on Freret Street, Lusher Charter School officials are also deliberating on what, if any, changes will be made for the 100 students who remain at the satellite campus at the Jewish Community Center on St. Charles Avenue.
The JCC campus opened in the fall of 2010 for two sections of kindergarten, intended as an expansion of the four sections per grade available at the Willow Street campus. Two more sections of kindergarten were admitted at the JCC in the fall of 2011, using up the total of four classrooms available there, but in 2012 Lusher officials announced that they would not be accepting new students at the JCC until a larger space could be found. The students already there, meanwhile, advanced a grade in their current location and now represent two sections of first grade and two of second grade this year.
A permanent solution still eludes school officials, said Lusher CEO Kathy Riedlinger at Saturday’s meeting of Lusher’s governing board, though they have looked into every building that they thought might come available. After the planned closure of Xavier University Prep building on Magazine was announced, Riedlinger said she even inquired about it before she found out about the alumni movement to keep Xavier Prep open: “There’s a considerable effort to keep that school open, and I hope that they succeed,” Riedlinger said.
For now, Riedlinger said Lusher will only accept the four sections of new kindergarten students at Willow Street again, not the JCC, while a committee of school administrators is exploring all possible options for the students still there. Remaining at the JCC for another year is one option, she said, but other scenarios include somehow absorbing the rising JCC third-grade students into Willow Street or adding portable classrooms there.
Tory Taylor, parent of a current second-grade student at JCC, asked Riedlinger if more of the extracurricular activities at Willow such as musical performance or group activities will be offered to JCC students. Riedlinger said those issues are also being explored.
“It’s a little frustrating to come week after week and hear you’re not prepared to offer any answers,” Taylor said.
The administration’s working committee is expected to have its recommendations complete by April 1, Riedlinger replied.
“The parents will definitely have input into those considerations once the available options become clearer,” said Lusher board president Blaine LeCesne.
Also of note during Saturday’s board meeting:
The Tulane City Center recently released a series of conceptual drawings for improvements to the Willow Street campus. Not all the recommendations will be adopted, Riedlinger said, but the successful use of astroturf under the new playground will likely be replicated.
March is also a busy time for admissions — which will be decided through the school lotteries over the next few weeks — and testing. Teachers are heavily involved in preparation for LEAP testing in the lower and middle school grades, principals Sheila Nelson and Brenda Bourne said, while the high school is emphasizing college-entrance exams.
Finally, the annual Lusher Crawfish Boil fundraiser will be Saturday, March 23, at the Freret Street campus.