The Board of Zoning Adjustments on Monday approved a long-debated parking plan for a rebuilt Walter L. Cohen College Prep high school campus. The campus will have more parking spots than the School Board originally proposed, but the plan falls short of the amount lobbied for by the school’s neighbors in the Delachaise area. The high school operated by the New Orleans College Prep charter school network is set to redeveloped into a 103,000-square-foot three-story building with 35 classrooms that could accommodate about 600 students and 75 faculty and staff members. The school currently on the site will be demolished. Such a campus, according to the city’s Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, needs 145 off-street parking spaces.
As the old Walter L. Cohen College Prep High School building nears its demolition, community members gave their feedback on the structure that will replace it, zeroing in on parking and the auditorium. A second community meeting was held Thursday for the project at 3520 Dryades St., which is seeking permission to have fewer parking spots and fewer loading docks than required by zoning regulations. Regulations require 154 parking spaces and two loading docks. The current plans for the new school building have 40 parking spaces and one loading dock. Attendees said this would not be enough parking spaces to accommodate the building’s full capacity of 600 students and 75 faculty members, and would result in an overflow of on-street parking that could damage lawns, congest streets and inconvenience neighbors.
Walter L. Cohen High School has run a budget deficit since it was taken over by the Future Is Now charter network that also operates John McDonogh High School, and whether Future Is Now will continue running it depends on the financial contribution that the Recovery School District will agree to, according to a report by Della Hasselle of The Lens.
Meagan McKinnon, senior class president at Walter L. Cohen High School, left campus Wednesday afternoon with no idea of the upheaval the coming week would bring to her campus. Thursday morning, the student body was abuzz with rumors that the school was about to be merged with John McDonogh High School. At an assembly that afternoon, they found out that no merger was planned, but that the New York-based Future Is Now charter group that took over McDonogh this year would be given control of Cohen within a week, and that most of the Cohen administrators and teachers would be replaced. Stunned, McKinnon and her classmates marched out of the building. They haven’t returned to class since then, instead alternating between protests and class time on the lawn as they demand the decisions be justified or reversed.
New Orleans College Prep, the charter school that manages Walter L. Cohen High School, may have to dip into its reserves to cover a $300,000 gap between expenses and revenues in its $11.2 million budget for the coming year, if fundraisers and donations cannot fill the shortfall, according to a report by Yomi Akinyemi for The Lens. The budget hole comes from the expiration of previous startup grants and College Prep’s increasing portion of the costs of the Cohen building.
The New Orleans College Prep governing board — which operates Sylvanie Williams elementary in Central City and Walter L. Cohen High School — has decided to apply to run a third school, and took action on the application after a three-hour closed-door meeting that appears to have run afoul of the state’s open-meetings laws, reports Joshua Johnston of The Lens.
What was about to be an extraordinarily brief public meeting of the state’s top education officials at Walter L. Cohen High School became an unscripted dialogue about the transformation of that school and others into charters Wednesday evening. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education held a meeting in New Orleans on Wednesday with an agenda primarily of reports — a recommendation that Lafayette Academy be allowed to add an eighth grade and move its youngest classes and offices to a new location off-site, and receiving reports on preschool programs and building projects around the city. The board breezed through those items with few comments in less than 20 minutes, and was about to adjourn when Ashana Bigard, a parent and activist, asked for permission to speak. Recovery School District superintendent Patrick Dobard agreed to hear her questions, and Bigard began by expressing concern about discipline policies as Walter L. Cohen High School is transformed into a charter school operated by NOLA College Prep. Specifically, she said, NOLA College Prep has one of the highest suspension rates in the city — for minor infractions that Cohen students are not used to being punished for. “We don’t get suspended for laughing, or not sitting up straight, or maybe not having a belt,” Bigard said.
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet at 6 p.m. tonight (Wednesday, May 30) at Walter L. Cohen High School, 3520 Dryades Street. Among the agenda items are a request to add an an eighth grade to Lafayette Academy, and move the preschool, kindergarten and central offices to a new site in Mid-City. The board will also receive a report on school construction projects around the city, including Audubon Charter’s Broadway campus renovation, the construction of Lawrence Crocker campus in the Milan neighborhood, the gym construction at McMain High School, the design of the Booker T. Washington High School, and the installation of solar panels at the International School of Louisiana’s Camp Street campus.
A wave of shootings in the Irish Channel that may be connected to an attack on a school bus last month and another outbreak of gun violence in the Central City area led to a joint operation of more than 40 officers being deployed to find the shooters and suppress the gunfire, authorities said this week. The Irish Channel area saw at least three shootings in as many days last week, including one at hotspot at Chippewa and Washington, another shooting in the 600 block of Soraparu and one more just a few blocks down at Hastings Place and St. Mary. At Chippewa and Washington, at least a dozen rounds were fired May 2 between what appeared to be juveniles in a silver Range Rover and a dark-colored sedan, and on Soraparu, the victim was walking toward a red car on the street when he was fired upon, said Sgt. Sabrina Richardson of the NOPD Sixth District persons-crimes unit.
A member of the Walter L. Cohen football team was shot to death Friday evening in front of a vacant home at Fig and Eagle, authorities said. The victim was 19-year-old Brandon Baker, a 300-pound defensive tackle nicknamed “Big Baby” for being a mama’s boy, a Cohen coach told Leslie Williams of The Times-Picayune. Baker was shot several times around 7 p.m. by a gunman in a silver Chevrolet HHR that was later captured on nearby surveillance video, police said. Anyone with information is urged to call NOPD Homicide Detective Timothy Bender at 658-5300 or CrimeStoppers at 822-1111 to leave an anonymous tip that could be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000. The surveillance video, via our partners at WWL-TV: