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Board discusses dissolution of old group, chartering of new school

At their July meeting, board members of Crescent City Schools discussed best practices for dissolving the nonprofit that ran Akili Academy this year. They also discussed their intent to charter Paul Habans Elementary School for the 2013-2014 year.

Akili Academy’s nonprofit board of directors is dissolving because Akili Academy is now run by Crescent City, along with Harriet Tubman Charter School. Members of the Akili board of directors joined the Crescent City board in June.

It’s a tricky dissolution, board members say, because Akili is still up to receive nearly $80,000 in federal reimbursement grants come September, and board members don’t want to terminate their nonprofit status before that cash comes through. But at the same time, that means they’ve got to keep the nonprofit active while it’s essentially inactive, with no charter school to manage.

The board ultimately decided to initiate a formal dissolution process once the grants come in, and appoint a regulator to manage that process. That’s a step that will not only allow them to receive those grants, but also ensure that they meet their legal requirements. Boards of nonprofits are required to provide appropriate notice of a dissolution to state and federal regulators, and to provide them with all necessary information.

In other meeting news, board members also began discussing the organization’s plans to charter Habans. Crescent City’s deadline to submit the charter application to the state was July 31. The organization will find out if it gets the charter in December. A look at the state’s list of charter applicants shows Crescent City as the only group interested in the school.

The organization is pursuing Habans, Mehok said, largely because Crescent City is comfortable with and enjoys the area. Tubman, the organization’s first charter school, is only a few minutes away.

“We really love Algiers. Love it here, I feel like we add a good value out here…. if Habans is available, and it was available for chartering, why would we not do that?” Mehok said.

Despite the benefits to chartering Habans, that particular school also comes with a few challenges. The Herschel Street school, because of its size, is one of the few schools in the city that still houses pre-kindergarteners through sixth graders, rather than the pre-kindergarten through eighth grade model that’s become popular post-Hurricane Katrina. The school is slated to move from its current 50,000 square-foot space to a space double that size in a few years, Mehok said.

When that move happens, Crescent City has to make sure they’ve got the enrollment numbers to fill that building.

School officials have tried to address that problem by crowding the smaller building until the big move. The charter Crescent City wrote is for a school admits kids up to eighth grade, but for the first year in the small building, they’ll only matriculate to sixth grade.  The year after, they’ll go to seventh grade, and then the full eighth grade the year following, with an eventual aim of having 75 kids in each grade level.

Packing the school early on also has another practical benefit. Schools that transition to bigger buildings often get large swells of new kids – who may or may not be performing on grade level – to help flesh out enrollment numbers. In this setup, school leaders will be able to work with the essentially the same group of kids as they transition to the new building, meaning that their school performance score shouldn’t change too drastically.

Crescent City’s next meeting is on August 15.

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