Plessy school facing tight deadlines with opening day just weeks away

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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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