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Lagniappe Academies looking for new site

With attendance at capacity at the school’s current location at 1501 St. Louis St. in Treme, Lagniappe Academies is moving closer to acquiring a permanent home.

At the board’s meeting Friday, Lagniappe CEO Kendall Petri said the school currently has167 students, with 145 of them in kindergarten through third grade and 22 students in seventh and eighth grade combined. The school had to stop accepting students prior to this school year because it was already over the charter school-proscribed limit of 15 students per classroom. Lagniappe anticipated students to drop out and reduce that number over time.

The original goal was to recruit 30 new students in addition to about 125 students enrolled last year, but Lagniappe “knocked it out of the park” and actually had to end up turning away students because of demand, Petri said.

Enrollment is still behind where the school’s charter had planned for at this time, however. In its fourth year, Lagniappe should currently have three classes at each grade level and four classes for kindergarten, Petri said. She hopes moving to a larger facility can make this become a reality.

The board is eyeing the Bayou Treme Center , a non-profit campus for social services and the arts located at 2541 Bayou Road . It was originally intended to open in 2010 as a charter school incubation project for schools to come and develop for a few years. It has suffered setbacks due to funding and tax credits not coming as soon as expected, but Petri hopes to secure the location for the 2014-2015 school year. She said Lagniappe has been looking at the property — the former site of St. Rose de Lima church — since 2008.

“We love it,” she said.

Lagniappe currently receives “a pittance,” about $600 per student, in funding because the school does not have a permanent building, said board member Dan Henderson.

“We are considered their best prospect, and I think we do consider them as a high prospect,” he said. “We have a couple other properties that we need to talk about later, none of which are ideal.”

Petri discussed more about expecting the school to jump from an F to a B grade when the state releases the newest ratings. The state is behind in calculating the bonus “value-added points” for schools, she said, which are earned for accomplishments such as students surpassing expectations in testing.

The state did release a way for schools to calculate their base scores on the basis of standardized LEAP and iLEAP testing and attendance, however. Petri said this has shown Lagniappe Academies having a new score of 85 without the bonus points. Previously, the school scored 58.6, an F. An 85 would earn the school a B rating on the new scale used by the Recovery School District and the rest of Louisiana. Petri expects additional value-added points, however, which the state will announce in its final school ratings that are likely to come out some time in October.

Petri said the 22 middle school students areabout half of what Lagniappe had last year. In recruiting students, the school focused on accepting more elementary students who could grow up with Lagniappe. This resulted in limited space available for the middle school students.

Chief Operations Officer Ninh Tran presented a revised budget for the 2013-2014. It is based on the school enrolling 160 students, whereas last year’s budget was for about 125 students.

This increase will result in greater minimum foundation program funding from the state. This per-pupil funding comes from the school earning $8,500 per student, which is the standard for Orleans Parish for all schools and “why schools try to stuff as many kids into classrooms as possible,” Tran said.

Because of this year’s additional students, Lagniappe added four new teachers. Additional technology services were also introduced this year to prepare Lagniappe students for when the LEAP and iLEAP tests become computerized next year.

Tran also said repairs and other maintenance at the school’s current modular building are increasing over time.

The board unanimously approved adding Dan Forman as a new board member. Forman has worked with Lagniappe Academies in the past and is the director of admissions and community relations for Townsend Addiction Treatment Centers.

He announced an upcoming project with Samaritan’s Feet, an international organization that donates shoes, for Lagniappe on Oct. 1. Each student will get a pair of new shoes at the event. Lagniappe is currently recruiting volunteers and parents to assist with it.

The next Lagniappe Academies meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 16, at 1501 St. Louis St.

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