Lusher hopes to expand into new building by 2021

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The Allen school building on Loyola Avenue, currently occupied by New Orleans Charter Science & Math High School (Robert Morris,

Lusher Charter School’s expansion into the Allen building next door is unlikely to happen prior to the fall of 2021, but school officials have already begun considering what renovations they may need now that the current occupant, Sci High, has held the official groundbreaking for its new building.

The Allen building on Loyola Avenue adjacent to Lusher’s own high school building on Freret Street, and Orleans Parish School Board officials announced this past summer that Lusher will receive the building as soon as Sci High moves into its new, state-of-the-art campus in Mid-City.

Sci High and state officials broke ground on that campus late last month, and have said that construction is expected to take two years. Sci High has meanwhile welcomed Lusher school leaders into the Allen building to begin planning how to use it, Lusher operations manager Frank Israel told the school’s governing board on Saturday morning.

In some ways, the Allen building resembles the condition of the Fortier building when Israel joined the school administration five years ago to lead its renovations, he told the board. The plaster ceilings show damage from water intrusion, for example. The lighting in the classrooms can be dim, and needs to be improved.

In one unexpected difference, some of the bathrooms in the Allen building were built for elementary students and still have sink and counter heights that are far too low for high-school students to use comfortably, Israel said. Lusher and OPSB are also still discussing what accessibility improvements will be made at the Allen building, which does not have an elevator, for example.

“It needs a whole lot of paint, but the bones are great and it’s a really beautiful old building,” Israel said.

The timeline for Lusher’s move is heavily dependent on the construction schedule at Sci High’s new building, as any delays on the new building will postpone Sci High being able to move out. The best guess from Orleans Parish officials thus far is for Lusher to receive the building sometime in 2021, for opening that fall, but he hopes Lusher receives it in the winter to start work during the spring semester, rather than trying to cram the entire renovation project into the summer.

The Orleans Parish School Board will still own the Allen building, as it does Lusher’s other buildings, and will thus pay for major renovations that are needed. Any changes that are deemed less than essential, however, Lusher may have to pay for, said CEO Kathy Riedlinger.

Although Lusher has yet to determine exactly how it will configure its students across the adjoining campuses, the school does expect to increase its enrollment, which will help offset the higher maintenance costs, she said.

“We will anticipate being able to take more students, so that will be more revenue,” Riedlinger says.

Board member Paul Barron praised Riedlinger for her work over the years leading to securing the Allen building for Lusher. Riedlinger, however, said the decision was made by OPSB Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr., and that she appreciated his support.

“The Allen building is a great collaboration with the School Board,” agreed board chair Richard Cortizas.

Saturday’s meeting also included a report on the school’s annual financial audit and updates from each individual campus. To read our live coverage, see below:

Live Blog Lusher Charter School board meeting

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