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Group unveils Walker-Landry merger plan details

A committee tasked with crafting the fall 2013 merger of two Algiers neighborhood high schools faced heated opposition from both school communities again Saturday during a public forum held to lay out a unification plan for O. Perry Walker and L.B. Landry high schools.

Saturday’s forum at Behrman Elementary School was one of several community meetings the Algiers Charter Schools Association has planned in response to the Recovery School District’s controversial November 2011 decision to house both Walker and Landry students at a new $54 million facility starting in August of next year.

“This is a very important process … it’s been thrust on us. It wasn’t sought after,” said Lloyd Dennis, a local mentor and part of the group formed to plan a peaceful merger. “We as a community are left to deal with it. As adults we have a responsibility … If this has to happen, let it happen smoothly. That’s really the whole point of this series of meetings.”

Algiers Charter Schools Association interim CEO Adrian Morgan outlined the process for combining the two schools, telling the more than 50 students, parents and teachers in attendance that there will be “one football team, one drama club … one program across the board.”

“Students will play a very important role in what this school looks like,” Morgan said. (Click here to view the presentation officials used to describe the plan during Saturday’s meeting.)

Walker Principal Mary Laurie will serve as the new principal of the combined school, an announcement that drew applause from Saturday’s audience comprised mostly of the Walker community.

“We may not have been as successful in getting the word out to the Landry community,” Morgan said. “We want both communities at the table.”

The new facility is slated to serve approximately 1,300 students, Morgan said. Any student currently attending Landry or Walker will be guaranteed a seat to re-enroll at the new school. Students will have access to nearby Fox Park for athletic and other recreational activities thanks to an intergovernmental agreement in the works with the New Orleans Recreation Department, Morgan said.

“We have zero concern about being able to house the students,” Morgan said.

Morgan told the crowd that smaller stakeholder meetings will begin in January, also noting that students in grades 10-12 will be able to order either Walker or Landry class rings, varsity jackets and even diplomas under the current unification plan.

The planned merger has long prompted outcries from the communities of both schools, and many are asking the ACSA governing board to vote in favor of Walker returning to the Orleans Parish School Board. Walker, Behrman Elementary and Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary are all eligible to leave the Recovery School District and return to the Orleans Parish board due to improved performance scores.

Another public meeting is scheduled for this Wednesday, Dec. 12 at  6 p.m. to get feedback from the community on the merger plan.

The board also scheduled a separate public forum held Tuesday, Dec. 11, to discuss its upcoming vote on whether to move back under the umbrella of the Orleans Parish School Board.

On Monday, Morgan said that vote is tentatively scheduled to happen some time in early January.

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