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Continuing search for long-term campus frustrates board; budget in balance

The Lagniappe Academies board grew in number while continuing to search for a new home at their monthly meeting, May 16.

The board started the meeting by unanimously agreeing to add to members to their ranks: Joanie Houston, a parent, and Dan Henderson, an education veteran who served nine years on the Baton Rouge Board of Education.

Henderson said he recently spoke to Hal Brown of the Bayou Treme Center about Lagniappe possibly moving to the St. Rose site the center occupies on Bayou Road, just off North Broad Street. If approved, the move would be a “year or two” away, according to Henderson.  Board chair Ray Smart said he would relish the board having greater control over a campus with room for expansion.

But the Archdiocese of New Orleans – not the Bayou Treme Center – owns the site. The Archdiocese has offered to sell the land to Bayou Treme, and Bayou Treme is pondering reselling to Lagniappe. This, among other issues, makes the situation “sufficiently complex,” Henderson said.

Smart lamented the difficulty the school has had finding a permanent home and said the school’s long-term sustainability hangs in the balance. “The biggest problem at the moment is that we can’t get enough kids into the facility to really pay the bills,” Smart said. He called the St. Rose option “a solution that could work for a number of years.”

The Recovery School District recently offered Lagniappe the McDonogh 7 campus, but the board deems the site unsuitable. The RSD is now urging the school to vie with three charter management organizations for the Wheatley Elementary School site, at 2300 Dumaine St.  The school will invite community input on this option while simultaneously pursuing the Bayou Treme option.

The school’s lease expires in July but will be renewed. Staying put in the short term is the “least expensive way to proceed,” Smart said.

Lower-than-expected enrollment – 102 students instead of 115 – has cut revenues by $117,917, but expenses are lower as well, by $152,595, leaving the school’s budget in the black.

The 50-minute meeting ended at 6:30 p.m.  The next meeting is June 20 at 5:30 pm.

Along with Smart and Henderson, board members Joanie Houston, Frank Williams, Joseph Kimbrell, and Joan Coulter were in attendance; Donna Fraiche and Vera Triplett were absent.

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