ENCORE Academy to spend first two weeks at Touro Synagogue as construction continues on Crocker building; now accepting students for third grade classes

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The Crocker school building on Marengo Street, photographed Aug. 3, is not expected to be ready for students until early September. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

With construction on the new Crocker building delayed until Labor Day, students at the new ENCORE Academy charter school will spend their first two weeks in a classroom building at Touro Synagogue, school officials said. Meanwhile, the school is adding a third grade to its initial roster of grade levels it will open this year, and continues to accept applications, school leaders said.

The announcements come in a pair of statements issued by the school this week. The first, explaining the two-week stint at Touro, was a letter from school leader Terri L. Smith directly to parents:

Dear ENCORE Academy Families,

I am writing to provide you with an update regarding our start of the school year and the building status.

We have been informed that the completion of our site, the Crocker building on Marengo Street, will be delayed a bit. However, we have a plan we believe will accommodate the needs of our families.

The newly constructed building will be ready to serve students after Labor Day, so our start date at the new site will be Wednesday, September 5. An Open House will be held at the Crocker building Tuesday, September 4. Details regarding the Crocker Open House will be forthcoming. We are very excited to be located at this amazing location despite the short delay in opening.

In the meantime, the board of the Touro Synagogue at 4328 St. Charles Avenue has generously offered their school to us for use for the two weeks preceding Labor Day – the weeks of August 20 and August 27. The location is at St. Charles Avenue and General Pershing Street. The building, designed as an educational facility, has a secure entrance, and meets all of the safety requirements associated with a school. In addition to having enough classrooms to meet our needs, the building has a large social hall that will serve well as a cafeteria and gymnasium for the two weeks we will be at that location. An Open House for families who wish to see the school at the Touro site, will be held, Wednesday, August 15th. Sessions will be held in the afternoon and in the evening to accommodate family schedules. Details will be sent out next week.

The hours of the school day for the two weeks we will be at the Touro site will be 8:30-3:30, one hour shorter than the length of our day at the Crocker site. Students may begin arriving at 8:30 for breakfast and all students should be in their classrooms by 8:50. Instruction begins promptly at 9:00 each day. Dismissal will be at 3:30 while at the Touro site, with no extended day program. Students are expected to wear the ENCORE Academy uniform while attending classes at the Touro site.

Transportation will be provided for ENCORE Academy students whose families have completed the Commitment to Transportation form. This includes the two weeks we will be located at the Touro site. If you have not yet completed this form, one is attached for your convenience. Families will receive transportation details at the August 15th Touro Open House and it will be mailed by the transportation service provider. Food Service will be provided as well, so students who wish to have breakfast and/or lunch may do so.

We realize this delay results in some loss of instructional time. Even with the loss of this time, our students exceed the minutes of instructional time required by the State of Louisiana. ENCORE Academy is committed to providing exemplary instruction for our students and monitoring their progress throughout the school year to ensure that all succeed. At this time, it is not our intent to modify our school calendar to make up the days missed due to the construction delay at the Crocker site.

As a way to be sure all families receive this communication and to check email addresses, we would appreciate a quick email response. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to email me, or Tony Wilson, our school operations manager. Again, we will send details regarding the Touro site open house to be held, Wednesday, August 15, to all families next week.

Thank you for your understanding in regard to this situation in which we have no control. We look forward to seeing everyone for the Touro Open House on the 15th and the Crocker Open House on September 4th.

ENCORE had originally planned to build its elementary and middle school at the same time, starting with preschool, kindergarten, and first and second grades in the elementary school, and fifth grade in the middle school, and adding the upper grades a year at a time as the school grows. Requests from parents of third-grade students in particular, however, have led to its addition to the school’s starting lineup of grade levels, according to a news release issued by the school:

ENCORE Academy, a new charter school with a musical arts focus, that is set to open in New Orleans this fall, will now offer third grade classes. The academy has decided to offer an additional class for third graders due to overwhelming requests by families. The new academy is the first school authorized by the Orleans Parish School Board since Hurricane Katrina.

“It is the desire of families to have all of their children attending the same school, and ENCORE Academy is willing to do all that we can to accommodate all of our families,” said ENCORE Academy founder and leader, Terri Smith.

ENCORE will be co-located in a new state of the art facility with Crocker Elementary School, 2301 Marengo Street in Uptown New Orleans. The new facility will include a Black Box Theatre, Media Center, full gymnasium, and will have all of the latest technology resources available to both students and faculty.

The primary focus of ENCORE Academy is academic excellence with a strong emphasis on individualized plans of instruction for each child in the areas of literacy and numeracy. Initial assessments will determine the areas of greatest need, and plans including one-on-one tutoring, small group instruction, or computer-aided instruction will be developed for each child. Frequent monitoring of progress will show if the intervention is moving the student forward or if a plan adjustment is necessary.

“Every ENCORE Academy scholar will have a plan that details how the daily 60 minute intervention or enrichment block will be spent,” said Smith.

The new academy is already making history even though it hasn’t officially opened its doors. ENCORE is the recipient of a $250,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation, making it the first school in the history of the Orleans Parish School Board to receive a grant from the prestigious foundation. Additionally, ENCORE Academy will be a recipient of the Music and the Brain Grant which will provide dozens of keyboards, teacher training, and materials for the musical performing arts academy.

“We are so excited to be the recipient of these remarkable grants,” said Smith. “These grants will assist us with providing our students with all of the resources that they will need to have a successful academic tenure at our academy.”

In addition to its academic offerings, ENCORE Academy will provide opportunities daily for students to participate in dance and fitness as well as French language, vocal and instrumental music instruction. The school will use a modified Suzuki method of early childhood music education, embracing Suzuki’s philosophy that the active involvement of family members as crucial participants, ensures the healthy functioning of the student-teacher-parent triad.

ENCORE Academy will implement a unique grade structure in year one of operation including pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first, second, third and fifth grades, to ensure students receive the best education in a positive, nurturing learning environment. The school will build an upper and lower academy concurrently, each with programming reflecting the developmental needs of the students in each academy. Each year the school will expand and by year four of operation, it will be a pre-K through eighth grade school serving over 500 students.

ENCORE Academy has an open admissions process, which is underway. For more information about ENCORE Academy or to receive an application, email Terri Smith at terrismith@encorelearning.org or call (504) 444-2224.

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