This building will be vacant after Gentilly Terrace Charter School closes at the end of the school year. The Recovery School District will decides which program will move in.
This building will be vacant after Gentilly Terrace Charter School closes at the end of the school year. The Recovery School District will decide which program will move in. Credit: Marta Jewson / The Lens

When Gentilly Terrace Charter School closes at the end of this school year, the building will be vacant, opening up a prime piece of real estate in a city where charter schools are continually searching for space.

Two very different programs are vying for the building on Painters Street.

The New Orleans Therapeutic Day Program educates students diagnosed with severe mental and behavioral issues who need specialized services that most schools can’t provide.

Audubon Charter School wants to open a new campus called Audubon Schools Gentilly. Uptown Messenger described the new model as a “French-immersion program teaching the Louisiana state curriculum with Montessori techniques.”

Suitable school buildings aren’t easy to come by in New Orleans. Some charter schools have rented nontraditional spaces, such as empty private schools, church and synagogue classrooms and modular buildings.

The building’s next occupant will be chosen by the Recovery School District, which issued the charter for Gentilly Terrace and maintains control of the building. The district has shuffled charter schools among its buildings and has solicited requests to use them after they’re vacated, most notably when John McDonogh Senior High School closed.

Audubon has the support of the Gentilly Terrace & Gardens Improvement Association, president Frank Rabalais wrote in an email to The Lens.

“While the students the RSD proposes to serve [through the therapeutic program] in our building can be just as well served in any number of settings, our neighborhood would derive real benefits from welcoming a proven school operator, dedicated to operating in Gentilly Terrace an open-enrollment, diverse-by-design public elementary school,” he wrote.

The association has expressed its support for Audubon in its email newsletter and in a letter to Orleans Parish schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr.

Recovery School District spokeswoman Laura Hawkins said the district is talking to the Orleans Parish School Board about locating its therapeutic program there. The program serves the city’s neediest kids, from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Program director Liz Marcell said the program started small at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, a state-run school focusing on the arts. Marcell said she hopes to enroll more students and needs more space for the ones there now.

Audubon CEO Latoye Brown will speak at the neighborhood association’s meeting tonight.

According to its letter of intent, the charter would open for the 2018-19 school year, if approved.

Hawkins said the district does not yet have a timeline for deciding who will get the building.

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...