As three schools under the Crescent City Schools banner near their opening days, school leaders are scrambling to get things on track.

The flurry of activity is centered at Akili Academy and Paul Habans Charter School, as Akili moves into its new, larger home and the Habans building gets a mini-makeover.

Harriet Tubman Charter School, Crescent City’s other school, will see some changes of its own after renovation plans are drafted later in the year.

CEO Kate Mehok and Chief Operating Officer Chris Hines briefed the charter group’s board on the changes during a Wednesday meeting.

The move to the historic renovated William Frantz Elementary School building marks the first time in Akili’s five-year history that students will learn in an actual building, instead of in modular classrooms. Most of the move is complete; the building is already stocked with furniture and equipment.

Still, the school is lacking a certificate of occupancy.

“We are both in a really good place, and also there’s a lot left to do,” CEO Kate Mehok said.

Akili, and Tubman, had more students signing up school leaders budgeted for. Enrollment numbers from the third round of OneApp, the city’s unified enrollment process, show that Akili is on track to have 81 more students than expected.  Tubman could have 59 more.

First day of school: Aug. 19
SchoolStaff left to hireStudents comingStudents budgeted
Akili Academy3 (65 total)531450
Paul Habans Charter School5 (60 total)427442
Harriet Tubman Charter School2 (66 total)584525
Source: Crescent City Schools

But every student who was matched may not come. Mehok said the schools routinely tell RSD that they will take more kids than they think will come because many families change their minds at the last minute.

Still, Akili’s numbers could be of concern: “If all 531 of those kids come, that’s a lot,” she said.

Another long-term issue Akili faces: lack of parking. There’s no parking lot on the grounds, so faculty and visitors have to park in the surrounding neighborhood. Board members are worried about the blight surrounding the school. The school is on North Galvez Street in the Upper 9th Ward, where some areas are still worse for wear eight years after Hurricane Katrina.

“I don’t want my students and our families coming to that school, and while they are going to love the school, I don’t want them scared off by the neighborhood,” board president JP Hymel said.

Hymel’s concerns echo that of Akili parent Bernell Patterson, who protested the move to the Frantz building when board members approved it in December.

Hymel suggested that Crescent City petition the city to improve the area. Ruby Bridges, who made history in 1960 by being one of the first to integrate the school’s halls, is also interested in blight solutions and could be a partner in that effort, Mehok said.

Mehok hopes that Akili will be settled by Aug. 5, the day teachers come back to set up for classes.

At Habans, volunteers have been busy cleaning, painting and working on landscaping during  Saturday “Hands on Habans” days. (Two more are planned this weekend.) Habans has hired 55 staffers, and the school has five more spots left to fill. Crescent City assumed control of the former RSD direct-run school on July 1.

Habans actual enrollment is closer to the school’s budgeted number – the school only needs 15 more students to meet budget.

Of the former Habans staff, only one teacher and two custodians will stay on with Crescent City. Former school leader Desmond Moore has accepted a job with the New Beginnings Network, working at Pierre Capdau Charter School.

The first day of school for students across the network is Aug. 19.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her...