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ReNEW’s proposed budget expands as it takes over Schaumberg Elementary

ReNEW Schools’ operating budget will jump 22 percent next year as the charter schools organization continues to expand its portfolio by taking over Schaumburg Elementary.

The organization will assume operations at Schaumburg this summer, making it ReNEW’s fifth school. The network’s revenue will increase from $27 million to about $33 million next year as a result of the takeover.

The ReNEW charter management organization currently oversees four schools: ReNEW Accelerated High School, ReNEW Dolores T. Aaron Elementary (formerly called Reed Elementary), ReNEW Batiste Cultural Arts Academy and ReNEW SciTech Academy.

Though revenue is rising overall for the network, three elementary schools are projecting a slight decrease in revenue.

The existing elementary schools are projecting lower revenues next year due to a decrease in specialized funding. For example, Financial Controller Tanya Bryant said the budgets do not include federal E-rate funding or Teacher Incentive Fund money, both of which are pending.

Bryant said this year the network will note how much of the per pupil funding will go toward the “administration fees” required by the state and Recovery School District. The state Department of Education and RSD together take about 2 percent of the per pupil funds for that purpose, she said.

The schools are also not counting on E-rate funding, federal funding which help subsidize the cost of telecommunication, as the majority of the $755,000 the school budgeted to receive this year has yet to come through.

“We don’t want to include it in our budget if we don’t get it this year,” Bryant said. She said she is still optimistic of the school’s chances of realizing that funding, however.

The Teacher Incentive Fund provides performance-based bonuses to teachers up to $2,500. Even though the network has been chosen by New Schools for New Orleans as a TIF participant, Bryant said the network is awaiting specifics on next year’s TIF allocation from NSNO.

“We did include bonus money for teachers in that salary line-item without TIF funding,” Bryant said.

The network’s CEO Gary Robichaux allows principals some autonomy in budgeting at each of their schools, Bryant said. This accounts for some of the differences between the individual school budgets. Robichaux sets guidelines, but allows the local school leader some flexibility in areas such as staffing and materials, on the condition that the budgets meet his approval and are cleared by the special education department.

While the alternative high school used to have two campuses, the network has combined its City Park campus and Westbank campus to form ReNEW Accelerated High School Uptown. The high school offers on-site daycare and caters to alternative and overage students with flexible class schedules. Bryant said all K-8 schools will offer before- and after-school care this year.

ReNEW Dolores T. Aaron Elementary school’s operating budget will decrease by 11 percent. This is largely due to the end of the school’s start-up grant. The High-Performing Schools Initiative brought $648,000 to the school last year.

Aaron, the former Reed Elementary, was housed in modular units on Reed Boulevard until it moved in late April.

ReNEW SciTech Academy and ReNEW Batiste Cultural Arts Academy will see a 1 percent drop in revenue, the anticipated loss of E-rate and TIF funding balanced out by a projected increase in per pupil state funding and Title I federal funding.

ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary’s operating budget of $7.2 million includes $350,000 of High-Performing Schools Initiative state funding. The network has previously received this type of funding for charter takeover. While the network hasn’t received the final word on the grant yet, Bryant said she expects to hear by the end of June.

Transportation for the elementary schools will increase 22 percent from last year, when ReNEW only had three elementary schools.  Bryant said the network was able to save some money by staggering the school day and sharing service between the two Uptown elementary schools and two elementary schools in eastern New Orleans.

“Our Uptown schools have an earlier start time than our East schools,” Bryant said. The buses will pick-up and drop-off Batiste Cultural Arts Academy and SciTech Academy students first and then begin their routes for Dolores T. Aaron and Schaumburg in eastern New Orleans.

Funding for a program designed to help struggling students during school breaks, dropped from $600,000 to $115,000. Bryant said the network required each elementary school to budget $200,000 last year for the program.

However, Bryant said most students and teachers opted for virtual learning last year, drastically decreasing program costs as teachers are not required to work in the building on those days off. She said school leaders decided to continue the program this year with virtual instruction.

Bryant said each school has a minimum required enrollment to meet overhead costs.

“They are all projecting over that number,” Bryant said Tuesday.

ReNEW will hold its public budget hearing May 9 at 5:30 p.m. at 3649 Laurel St. Besides being posted on The Lens web site, the budget is currently available for public review at the network’s office.

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