Lycee Francais board approves line of credit for Priestley purchase, initial renovations

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The Priestley campus, photographed in June 2014, fills an entire city block off Leonidas Street. ( file photo by Robert Morris)

The Priestley campus, photographed in June 2014, fills an entire city block off Leonidas Street. ( file photo by Robert Morris)

Article by Sarah Tan for

With the purchase of the Priestley campus in Carrollton now complete, the Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans charter school plans to begin initial renovations on the long-vacant campus using a new $800,000 line of credit.

Lycee Francais voted to buy the Alfred E. Priestley school building at 1619 Leonidas Street last June with intentions to expand it to be the school’s middle school branch. Earlier this month, board members authorized CEO Keith Bartlett to close on the purchase of the Priestley building for $425,500 from the Orleans Parish School Board.

During a board meeting Monday night, members unanimously authorized using an $800,000 line of credit to pay for the purchase, as well as to cover initial school site renovations.

“Congratulations to you,” Bartlett announced to an enthusiastic board. “You own a school.”

In discussions, Bartlett added that if the line of credit were not ratified by the board, the school would still be able to pay for the purchase of the new building through its own funds, but that they would prefer not to tie up the school’s cash in a building purchase.

Board chair Alysson Mills said the remainder of the $800,000 line of credit will likely pay for initial renovation, such as fixing the roof to seal up the building, and taking care of asbestos and lead paint on the site. But specific use of the money would be determined in separate board committees.

“We have not yet figured out how to renovate the school,” board chair Alysson Mills said. “This initial funding will be to buy the building, and the rest of it will go to fixing up the building to make it seem part of the neighborhood.”

This is the second line of credit the board will be opening. An outstanding line of credit, opened before this current board was seated, remains for $300,000.

In addition to its new school building, board members also discussed expanding the demographic of children the school serves. Bartlett mentioned how board members had set a goal of having more economically “high risk” students attend the school, and to overall have the incoming Kindergarten class made up of about 60 percent students who fall into this category.

As of last night’s update however, the incoming class will fall short of this goal, as it will only be about 43 percent self-reported “high risk” students. The school’s incoming pre-school class, however, is about two-thirds self-reported “at risk” students. Bartlett also mentioned that the school would be looking to hire a Spanish translator, and increasing their effort to encourage more Hispanic students to the school.

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