The Algiers Charter Schools Association met with roughly 50 community members and staff of the Martin Behrman Charter School Academy of Arts and Sciences Tuesday night to discuss a $30 million plan to remodel or the school or build a new one.
ACSA CEO Adrian Morgan presented overviews of the two sites currently being considered for the new school, expected to open by January 2015. One site, located just blocks away on Opelousas Avenue won the support of community members, Behrman staff and Leslie Ellison of the Orleans Parish School Board due to its significantly larger size and location.
“I want to be extremely clear — I do not support Behrman moving to the Patterson site,” Ellison said, referring to another lot under consideration, on Patterson Drive by the levee.
Ellison cited the dangers posed by that site’s proximity to the levee.
Birdell Mitchell, the band director at Behrman, also spoke in support of staying close to the current location, citing the number of local children who walk to school from surrounding neighborhoods.
“This location is paramount,” Mitchell said. “If we have to move, let us move down the street.”
The Opelousas site isn’t quite perfect, however. The site, previously owned by CSX Railroad, is under a covenant that does not allow for residential or commercial construction due to environmental concerns.
“I think it’s our responsibility to get all the info out so the public can make the best decision… not just pick one and move forward,” Ellison said after expressing concern that the covenant could not be lifted.
John Edwards, the ACSA board member in charge of facilities issues, says that most of the environmental concerns have been addressed however, and that ACSA is hopeful they will be able to lift the covenant and move forward with the site.
Though the Patterson Drive site is only 4.17 acres, a handout from the Algiers Charter Schools Association says that the Recovery School District has deemed the site large enough for the school, which has three sections each of pre-kindergarten through 8th grade The current site sits on roughly five acres and the Opelousas site would offer more than 10.7 acres.
Edwards said the official estimate on remodeling the current school should come in almost any day, shedding some light on how viable a remodel option for the school could be.
Colin Brooks, John Edwards and James Henderson, Jr., facilities leaders for the ACSA board of trustees attended the meeting as well as Stan Smith, interim superintendent of the Orleans Parish School Board and Kathleen Padian, the deputy superintendent of the OPSB and Leslie Ellison, a member of the OPSB. There was no representative of the Recovery School District present.