Supporters of Johnson Elementary took another passionate stand in support of the school’s move to the more desirable site of the old Priestley campus during a Recovery School District public hearing Wednesday evening, while Booker T. Washington supporters questioned a plan to tear down and rebuild most of that historic building to house two separate high schools, including a charter-run version of Walter L. Cohen. Two deputy superintendents promised the Carrollton neighborhood leaders that they would be involved in an upcoming feasibility study of the Priestley site. To questions about the plans for Booker T. Washington plan, they replied only that nothing is final and that they are continuing to hear concerns from the community. Johnson | Moving a steadily-improving educational program at James Weldon Johnson Elementary into a more prestigious, safer location at the old Priestley campus has been a top priority for members of the Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association, and the half-dozen proponents of the idea dominated the small crowd at Thursday’s public hearing. The latest facilities plan calls for an engineering study to determine the cost differences between renovating Johnson’s current campus versus building at the Priestley site, and association president Anne Wolfe Nicolay insisted that neighborhood members be involved in the actual studying — not just given a report to read and react to afterward.
The state’s plan to transform Walter L. Cohen High School into a charter school over the next two years inspires a mixed reaction through the school community, based on a Wednesday night meeting with dozens of alumni, faculty, parents and students. While some Cohen supporters agreed with the state that the school is in dire need of dramatic change to its dismal, lowest-in-the-state performance, many remain skeptical about what they see as a painful transition with an uncertain outcome. The plan at Cohen is for a gradual takeover by a charter operator, New Orleans College Prep. This year, the direct-run Cohen did not accept any ninth-grade students, while College Prep began operating a ninth grade on the third floor of the Cohen building. Next year, the traditionally-run high school will only have 11th and 12th grades, while College Prep will add a 10th grade. “One will grow while the other one shrinks,” Recovery School District Superintendent John White told the Cohen supporters gathered in the school library.
Walter L. Cohen High School is slated to be gradually taken over by NOLA College Prep over the next two years, according to an RSD announcement that also casts the challenges faced by Sojourner Truth Academy this year into sharp relief.
With an apparent consensus in support of the latest plan to distribute what’s left of $2 billion in FEMA money to rebuild and repair New Orleans schools, attention is now quickly shifting to the programs will receive the school buildings once the money has been spent. The new plan scales back the size of some schools to be built, finds new revenue sources and cuts cost elsewhere to spread the money to every school in the city, either through new construction; full renovation or exterior refurbishment to bring every campus to a standard of “warm, safe and dry.” “Not every school is a new building, not every school is a gut-renovation, but every school is made whole for education,” said Recovery School District superintendent John White. But even as education advocates began thanking the state officials for redrawing the plan, discussion turned to control of the buildings themselves. The Orleans Parish School Board voted to accept the plan Thursday night, for example, but first added an amendment essentially saying that no building could be given to a Type 2 charter unless the Orleans Parish School Board declared it surplus first.
Eleanor McMain High School, the International School of Louisiana (at both campuses), James Weldon Johnson Elementary, KIPP Believe College Prep and Central City, Lafayette Academy and Sojourner Truth are all among 32 area schools to receive salad bars donated by the United Fresh Produce Association, according to Andrew Vanacore of The Times-Picayune.