Homer A. Plessy Community School inked a long-anticipated deal last week: the 250-student charter bought a school to call its own.

The Orleans Parish School Board sold long-empty Lorraine Hansberry Elementary School to the growing kindergarten-through-fourth-grade charter for $400,000.

The needed renovation won’t come cheap. Plessy Board Chairman Ben McLeish estimates $10 million to $15 million will be needed. But the school is happy to be in control of its own destiny. As a Type 1 charter school, Plessy is responsible for securing its own facility.

“We decided, in terms of stability, it’d be better to buy something,” McLeish said Tuesday. “We can better fulfill our mission … we can design and control the set-up.”

Plessy currently occupies A.P. Tureaud school, in the city’s 7th Ward. It’s owned by School Board but controlled by the Recovery School District; Plessy pays rent to the RSD. When the RSD overtook academically failing schools after Hurricane Katrina it gained control of the buildings as well.

The Hansberry site is just a mile away, in the city’s Bywater neighborhood.

“Our hope is that we would be in there by the 2017-18 school year,” said McLeish, whose own children attend the arts-integrated school. “That’s our goal.”

Plessy borrowed money from Gulf Coast Housing Partnership for the site purchase. The board is still working out plans for financing the renovation.

“We’ll be billing out for tax credits to help with some of the financing,” McLeish said.

The school could also work with a private developer or renovate the building in stages, which would be more affordable for a small institution.

Encore Academy, also a Type 1 charter school, purchased the Shaw building from the School Board. The charter then sold the facility to Charter School Development Corp, an out-of-state nonprofit that finances charter facilities. Encore will lease the building back.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...