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ENCORE hopes for new building next year

ENCORE Academy officials recently announced plans to leave the school’s current shared location, and move to a new site in the St. Roch neighborhood.

Earlier in September, the Orleans Parish School Board accepted a letter of intent from the school to purchase the former site of John A. Shaw Elementary School, which is located at 2518 Arts St., according to school leader Terri Smith.

The music and arts-focused school is currently housed in the same building as Crocker Technology and Arts school at 2301 Marengo St. New Orleans College Prep, which runs Crocker, currently controls the building.

ENCORE hopes to move into the new building by the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, Smith said.

Smith made the official announcement at a meeting with parents Sept. 12. The Academy’s Board of Directors was set to discuss further plans for the new facility at its regular meeting on Tuesday, but gave a quick update because Smith could not attend the meeting due to illness. Smith provided further details about the new facility to a Lens reporter following the meeting.

The Shaw building was slated to go up for auction as an Orleans Parish School Board surplus property, but ENCORE submitted its letter of intent in time to halt the proceedings. Under OPSB regulations, charter schools have right of first refusal to stop the auctions from going forward.

The building was flooded with approximately six feet of water in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the roof was damaged in a fire. Smith estimated the facility will cost about $8-10 million to bring online, but the school has yet to make a decision on whether to renovate the current building, or demolish the existing structure and build a new school.

Work on the site is scheduled to begin in November, according to a timeline provided by the school.

The school is working with the Washington D.C.-based firms Ten Square and Charter School Development Corp. to identify financing. If the Academy is unable to get the financing directly, CSDC will get the financing and lease the building to ENCORE, Smith said.

ENCORE Academy officials have been looking for a new facility since March, looking for room as enrollment grows. According to the information provided by Smith, school officials currently project enrollment for the 2014-15 school year to increase by 70 students, to 391 students. The school expects to add 20 or more students each in pre-kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade, while cutting back its kindergarten enrollment, according to the figures provided.

The move will take the Orleans Parish School Board charter, which is currently in its second school year, out of its current Uptown location.

The neighborhood surrounding the school is characterized in the provided materials as “one of renewal.” One of the board members lives a block away from the new site, and a school employee also lives in the area, Smith said.

Smith said families have been “very supportive” of the move. She said the school will issue a “client satisfaction survey” to parents in October, which will include questions about the move.

The school’s board of directors also approved a three percent pay increase for Smith on Tuesday. However, the school leader declined the raise, according to Board President Linda Launey.

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