Aug 072014
The former James Weldon Johnson Elementary School (photographed in 2011) will eventually be refurbished and assigned to KIPP Believe Primary under a new configuration for Carrollton public schools announced Thursday morning. ( file photo)

The former James Weldon Johnson Elementary School (photographed in 2011) will eventually be refurbished and assigned to KIPP Believe Primary under a new configuration for Carrollton public schools announced Thursday morning. ( file photo)

The school options for Carrollton families will expand in the coming years as the Recovery School District announced a long-term plan Thursday morning to assign KIPP Believe and the operator Lafayette Academy to two campuses each along the Carrollton corridor.

The Choice Foundation, which operates Lafayette Academy on Carrollton and several other schools around the city, will ultimately be awarded the new Dunbar campus under construction in Hollygrove, according to the RSD announcement.

KIPP Believe College Prep (a middle school) will make its current location at the McNair campus on Carrollton its permanent home, and KIPP Believe Primary will move from its new temporary campus at the old Banneker building to the Johnson campus on Monroe Street, according to the plan.

But before that configuration can take place, a number of other moves have to be finished, the plan states:

  • Sophie B. Wright students will remain at Johnson this year until repairs on their building at Napoleon Avenue are complete. Johnson will then be completely refurbished before KIPP Believe Primary moves in.
  • McNair will be renovated for KIPP Believe College Prep, which will spend that time as the initial tenant of the new Dunbar campus.
  • When KIPP Believe College Prep returns to McNair, the Choice Foundation will expand into Dunbar.

The moves add to a quickly-shifting landscape of educational options in the Carrollton area. Banneker has long been rumored as a permanent upper-school campus for Audubon Charter, whose older students are currently temporarily assigned to the old McDonogh No. 7 building on Milan Street. Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans remains interested in purchasing the vacant Priestley building, though it is encountering opposition from a newly-formed neighborhood group called the P-Town Project who would prefer a “Healing Center” concept there. And the former Carrollton courthouse, long the home of Audubon Charter and other schools, is anticipated to go to public auction.

For more details, see the full news release from the Recovery School District below:

Today the Recovery School District (RSD), Choice Foundation, and KIPP New Orleans Schools began working toward an agreement to increase the number of high quality public elementary school seats in New Orleans. This agreement will allow two high-performing charter operators to expand their programs in the neighborhoods they serve and will bring a newly renovated school facility to the Carrollton corridor. The plan calls for two of the city’s most consistently high-performing schools, Lafayette Academy Charter School and KIPP Believe College Prep and Primary to expand their high-quality programs into the Dunbar, Johnson, and McNair elementary school buildings.

RSD worked with the Choice Foundation and KIPP New Orleans Schools to outline a solution to expand elementary options for families throughout the city. The agreement will have Choice Foundation as the long-term operator of the Dunbar facility, while allowing KIPP to use Dunbar as swing space while the McNair facility is renovated. The RSD will assign KIPP Believe College Prep and Primary to the McNair and Johnson buildings respectively.

“Both Choice Foundation and KIPP have successful elementary school models and the means to replicate successful elementary school programs in New Orleans,” said Patrick Dobard, RSD Superintendent of the Recovery School District. “Choice and KIPP began working together today in the spirit of compromise to help ensure that all students are served in a new, renovated, or refurbished building.”

This agreement allows Choice Foundation to expand its high performing program at Lafayette to serve additional students in the Dunbar facility and allows KIPP to serve approximately 900 students across the Johnson and McNair facilities. Combined, the organizations will serve approximately 450 additional students from across the city in high quality schools.

“Choice Foundation is committed to expand its rigorous program into the Dunbar building,” said Mickey Landry, Executive Director of Choice Foundation. “Choice looks forward to working with KIPP to provide families with additional high quality options in the Carrolton corridor.”

The RSD is committed to refurbishing the Johnson facility and will take the McNair facility off the land bank list and fully renovate it. KIPP Believe College Prep will use the Dunbar facility as temporary “swing” space until the McNair facility is renovated and move in ready. Completion of the McNair renovation is expected in time for the 2017-18 academic school year.

“Our school community is overjoyed that the RSD has chosen to invest in the McNair and Johnson buildings,” said Rhonda Kalifey-Aluise, Executive Director of KIPP New Orleans . “These improved buildings will serve as the permanent home for over 900 students attending KIPP Believe College Prep and Primary, and will allow our schools to remain in the same neighborhood we’ve served for the past eight years. Our students deserve the very best, and these buildings will help them reach their goals of success in college and beyond. We’re grateful to the RSD and the Choice Foundation for partnering with us to provide excellent school choices to the children of New Orleans.”

The Recovery School District recently presented to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education a list of challenges the organization faces in fulfilling the School Facilities Master Plan, a $1.8 billion school rebuilding project funded by FEMA that will serve all students in New Orleans by placing them in a new, renovated, or refurbished facility. Three main challenges: higher construction costs, insufficient revenue, and an imbalance of elementary and high school seats are the cause of recent scope changes necessary to complete the mission. RSD committed to BESE to work with Choice and KIPP to seek solutions that will lower cost and increase seats; one specific task was to define the future of Dunbar.

“Today’s collaboration illustrates how high quality organizations can work with the district to come up with creative solutions to difficult decisions around facilities and program sitings,” said Kira Orange Jones, New Orleans BESE member. “I would like to thank the RSD, Choice, and KIPP for their compromise today and their unwavering long term commitment to provide excellence in education for public school students in New Orleans.”

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