Schools
 

Alternative charter school is closing mid-year

Crescent Leadership Academy, an alternative middle and high school that accepts students who’ve been expelled from other city schools, will close at the end of this month, according to a letter from Orleans schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr.

Lewis said the charter board’s decision to shutter the school mid-year is “unacceptable and goes against everything we stand for as a community of educators leading schools in our unique system.”

“I have spoken to the leadership at CLA to express my deep disappointment in the timing of this decision,” Lewis wrote in the letter to other school leaders.

“Additionally, we will be investigating this decision to surrender and pursuing any recourse where needed.”

The decision will leave New Orleans without an alternative school for elementary and middle school students. The city’s two other alternative programs only serve high school students.

The news comes days after Lewis held a press conference highlighting the 100 days since the state-run Recovery School District charter schools returned to local control. Lewis said the July 1 transition was seamless and introduced his new cabinet. He also addressed an “alarming plateau” in academic achievement and said it will be a challenge for the district.

The transition marks the first time since Hurricane Katrina that the majority of the city’s public schools fall under the locally elected Orleans Parish School Board. But now, nearly all of the city’s schools are publicly funded, privately run charter schools.

Crescent Leadership Academy, which serves seventh grade through seniors, is one of those charter schools. And with an independent board, it can decide to close with little warning, highlighting the district’s decentralized model.

It is the second charter school to abruptly decide to close this year. Last spring, Cypress Academy’s board decided to do the same thing. Its board voted to close due to budgetary concerns just days before the end of the school year. After outcry from parents, who were scrambling to find a school for the fall, Lewis agreed to keep it open and run it directly for two years.

Crescent Leadership Academy enrolls 66 students, about 40 percent who attend due to expulsion from other schools, Lewis wrote. That’s shy of the school’s total enrollment goal, according to its September board meeting minutes. Other district schools have made budget cuts this fall after falling short of enrollment goals.

The board’s minutes also hint at budgetary concerns amid a new payment system and a strained relationship with the school district.

In his letter, Lewis said the district’s Student Hearing Office is meeting individually with each student and their family.

Of the school’s 66 students, 24 who were expelled from other schools will have their expulsion terms cut short and be allowed to enroll in another school. The students who chose to attend CLA can transfer to a new school.

The students whose expulsions run through the end of the school year will be transferred to The NET or ReNEW Accelerated High School, the city’s other alternative schools. But two of the students in that group are in middle school. Unlike CLA, The NET and ReNEW do not serve middle school students.

“Moving forward, unless we identify a new middle school alternative site, all K-8 expulsions will result in a transfer to another traditional school setting,” Lewis said.

He committed to working with all CLA students to find new schools.

Neither the district nor CLA’s board president immediately responded to a request for comment.

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About 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 to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.