Failing Miller-McCoy Academy closing in spring; RSD seeking new operator

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Embattled Miller-McCoy Academy will close at the end of the school year, the state-run Recovery School District announced late Wednesday. And wasting no time, the district immediately launched a search for a new operator for the school, which is scheduled to get a new building next year.

The RSD has issued a request for applications from organizations interested in opening a new school at Miller-McCoy’s future home, and initial letters of interest are due by Dec. 31.

It’s unclear whether many boards will meet in the next two holiday weeks to consider and vote on whether to take part in the process, or whether such board approval is even necessary.

The Orleans Parish School Board earlier this week decided to challenge in court the RSD’s ability to open such new schools.

The RSD was already in the process of finding operators for two shuttered high schools, Sarah T. Reed and John McDonogh, which prompted the lawsuit.

The all-boys Miller-McCoy school serves students in fifth through 12th grades, and it had about 300 students last year. It is housed in modular classrooms and was slated to move into the new Livingston High School next school year. But there were signs of trouble at the school this fall.

First came an F letter grade from the state. Then, a Miller-McCoy student went before the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education speaking of fights, intense patdowns at the morning security checkpoint and exposed wiring in classrooms. At that meeting, RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard told state school board members he was aware of issues at the school.

On Wednesday, the RSD announced the school would close this spring and students would receive priority placement in the city’s centralized enrollment system, called OneApp. That means a tight turnaround for parents facing a Friday deadline for the early-round of OneApp applications.

With student enrollment in the city outpacing projections, according to recent Orleans Parish School Board estimates, the city is not in a position to close schools without replacing seats.

Indeed, the RSD’s call for operators says they must absorb Miller-McCoy students into the new school.

But the School Board contends it should be the one responsible for opening new schools, not the Recovery School District.

The RSD was created as a temporary entity to turn around academically failing schools and give them back to the local district. But a 2010 state-level policy change allows significantly  improved charters to make the decision themselves.

Of 36 schools eligible to return next year, only one charter school is headed back to the School Board. Friends of King voted unanimously to return Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School to the School Board in December. That vote was a reversal of the board’s November decision to remain with the recovery district.

Thirty-four of the 36 eligible schools will stay put in the RSD, with the final board, ARISE Academy, slated to decide tonight.

Many of those schools cited the School Board’s lack of a superintendent in their decision to remain with the RSD. The School Board appears to be making progress in the search, and has invited two finalists for another interview.

And as the School Board tries to regain oversight of city schools, it also passed a resolution this fall asking the Recovery School District not to open any more schools in the city.

The RSD has ignored that, spending the last few weeks soliciting new operators for Reed and McDonogh high schools. This included meeting privately with groups interested in running Reed when it opens in 2016-17.

School Board President Nolan Marshall said the School Board should be in control of opening schools in the city, whether they’ve been closed for years or just over the summer.

Organizations interested in running a high school at Livingston must submit a letter of interest by Dec. 31 and full applications are due mid-January. The RSD plans to notify organizations of their standing mid-February.

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