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Plessy school facing tight deadlines with opening day just weeks away

Homer A. Plessy Community School began as a grassroots effort among community members who wanted to see a school dedicated to the Marigny, St. Roch, St. Claude and Bywater neighborhoods of New Orleans.

That dream has become a reality as the non-profit grew, gained support and eventually was  approved to operate a charter school.

In just five weeks, Plessy Community School will welcome its first students — but in that time school leaders have to recruit more than 50 students and move into the school’s first facility while they hold out hope for a grant that can make or break the bank.

The pre-kindergarten through second grade charter school will embrace an arts-integration curriculum. Plessy will share the Douglass Building with Arise Academy on St. Claude Avenue for the upcoming year and is scheduled to open Aug. 8.

At a board meeting July 1, the first day of the 2013-2014 fiscal year, school leader Sara Leikin said she still needs to recruit additional students for the school’s inaugural year.

“Our budget is dependent on fully filled classes,” Leikin said.

Like all other schools, Plessy’s $1.5 million budget largely hinges on enrollment as each student brings state and local funding to the school.

The school currently has 65 students enrolled between kindergarten, first and second grade. However, it’s still hoping for 52 more students, half for first grade seats and the others for second grade.

The $1.5 million budget Plessy submitted to the Orleans Parish School Board officials is not finalized yet. Leikin informed The Lens last month that Plessy did not receive the $234,900 in state pre-kindergarten funding she had hoped for and which was included in that budget.

Placing a high value on pre-kindergarten education, Leikin built Plessy’s budget to support  three pre-kindergarten classes without that state funding.

“Every day,  people call for pre-K,” said Leikin, who said she wishes she could take in all 24 children on Plessy’s pre-kindergarten wait-list.

Leikin is using the board’s community engagement committee to help fill recruit students to fill those 52 vacancies. She also said Plessy participated in the third round of the Recovery School District’s unified enrollment system called OneApp which may help place students at the school as well.

The school is also still awaiting word on a $200,000 Believe and Succeed Grant from the state department of education. Without this grant the school may be projecting a deficit. Leikin expects to hear about the grant on July 15.

Leikin said Plessy will likely move into the Douglass Building in late July. The school is undergoing renovations and the original projected move in mid-July was pushed back to July 29, just 10 days before students will arrive.

Leikin said the school received a grant for roughly $119,000 from Communities In Schools. That money will help Plessy provide after-school programming until 6 p.m. after the school day ends at 3:30 p.m.

A fundraising gala in June raised about $10,000 for the school, Leikin said.

Leikin said school leaders are planning to hold a second public budget hearing as the first one was not well attended.

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About Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

  • nickelndime

    okay okay – this is awful – Plessy-OPSB Charter School authorizer. Kathleen Padian – Deputy Superintendent of OPSB Charter Schools is directly repsonsible for this kind of political stuff. Hello, Plessy BOD!!! How shall I say it – “bull manure”? List the names, Marta! That’s why you are there.

  • edpolicy

    What kind of awful “political stuff” is KP responsible for? Paying close attention, as you suggest to others on these boards, requires a little bit of knowledge about how this new system of schools works. It’s not perfect, but I’m not certain you’re paying attention to anything except the sound of your own voice.

  • nickelndime

    Why was OPSB Deputy Superintendent “KP” in Washington with the RSD touting the OneApp and cooperation between the two (Districts), at the same time the OPSB was scrapping its participation in the OneApp for its direct-run schools? No man, or woman, can serve two masters. My question is, who is Padian’s master? The one who is paying her salary now, or the one who will pay her salary in the future. What children and their parents have 5 years to waste because a certain group of politically-connected, influential, or “correct” individuals decide they want their turn at starting a new school “business” at the public’s expense? You are right, edpolicy, the new system is not perfect, but I was hoping for more – lots more. A lot of what “KP” does is “redundant.” That’s when she is not doing the other things that could get her canned.