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Lycée Français passes budget

Editor’s note: Story updated July 13 to reflect that the final vote had taken place.
The Lycée Français Board unanimoulsy passed its $3.1 million budget Tuesday, July 10. Board Members present included board chairman Dr. Jean Montes, Catherine MacPhaille, Hemalatha Banangada and Paige Saleun.
Ex-officio Jean Claude Brunet, Consul General of France in New Orleans, also sat with board members offering his support of the budget.
Board members absent from the meeting were Vice-Chair Dr. Thomas Klingler and Andrew Abrams.

After The Lens reported that the Lycee Francais charter school board voted in June on its 2012-13 budget without making the required public announcements, the board re-scheduled its vote.

With its student population set to triple from 126 students to 350 students next year, the budget is significantly higher than the $1.1 million the school worked with during the 2011-2012 school year.

At a special hearing last night, board members asked Lycée’s business manager David Bedell questions about specific line items in the budget.

At a June meeting and budget vote, there were no questions from the board.

Major increases in expenses include rent for the school’s new campus at State and Patton Streets and salaries for additional teachers to address the needs of the school’s growing student population.

The school also plans to spend $26,300 on testing services, up from $400 last year, according to budget figures.

Bedell said these testing services are necessary to evaluate students for learning disabilities and to screen for the gifted program.

With additional revenues expected from state and local sources in relation to increased student enrollment, the Lycée Français’ board expects its budget to be balanced, including a reserve fund of $89,000.

Increased fees will come from the $4,580 yearly tuition charged to PreK-3 students and to students in PreK-4 who are above a certain income level.

Bedell said the school will accept up to 35 students next year in PreK-4 who will fall under the state’s LA-4 program for students who do not meet certain income levels. Bedell said this will be the first year the school will participate in the LA-4 program. According to the state Department of Education website, the La-4 program “provides economically disadvantaged children with early childhood education.”

Three PreK-3 classes will be held at the school’s South Claiborne Street campus, and 14 classes from PreK-4 through 2nd grade, along with support staff, will be housed at the new campus on State and Patton Streets, Bedell said.

There will also be a satellite classroom at the Audubon Zoo to learn about zoology and biology, Bedell said.

Board members noted that the school is getting a discount on rent at the campus on State and Patton Streets, at $160,000 a year. By the end of its 5-year contract, the school expects to be paying the market rate of $250,000 per year.

The school will offer food service next year for the first time.

Jean Montes, Doctor of Musical Arts and Chairman of Lycee Francais board of directors, said Lycée Français has contracted with KIPP to act as its fiscal agent for food service, although a food service provider has not yet been named in the budget.

Montes said the school hopes to eventually break even, or even make money, from offering food services. Any upfront costs for the services will come from the school’s technology budget and its reserve fund. Board members noted that the kitchen in the new campus is already well-equipped.

First-time expenses outlined in the budget include $66,392 for new furniture and $48,500 for hardware and technology in the new campus.

Responding to a question from a reporter from the Uptown Messenger about the PreK-3 students paying tuition to attend the public charter school, Montes said it is simply the fee structure the school has set up in order to serve all students in its special French immersion program.

“The idea is for us to have scholarships for all these kids; we don’t have that yet, but we are working on it,” Montes said.

The meeting will be held tonight at 5:30 p.m. at 5401 South Claiborne Ave.

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