In the next few months, NOLA Public Schools will decide whether more than a quarter of New Orleans charter schools will remain open for the next school year.

The district held a community meeting on the topic on Monday and Tuesday evening. The remaining meeting will be held Thursday (October 5) at 6 New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School, 2011 Bienville St.

Because of the city’s completely decentralized school system, all schools are run by independent, nonprofit charter operators who receive contracts that can be three, five, seven, or 10 years in length.

Most schools remain open. But at struggling schools, this time of year can be nerve-wracking, as families, students and staff wait for word on whether their school meets the criteria to remain open. 

These high-stakes decisions, to either extend or renew a charter’s contract, hinge on each school’s annual state-issued A through F letter grade. The grades, based largely on standardized test scores, are typically released in early November. 

In the past, charter decisions were made unilaterally by the superintendent, then announced publicly in a report. 

And under Robert’s Rules of Order, the superintendent’s report was not a board action item. So, at school board meetings, the public had no right to comment on renewal recommendations. 

Then, last year, the Orleans Parish School Board approved a new policy that put these decisions before the board for a vote. So this year, families can attend board meetings and speak to the board about district recommendations.

Five schools eligible for to have contracts extended

Five schools are up for contract extension. During the final years of an initial charter contract, a review allows a charter to finish its first five-year term. 

Those schools are Esperanza Academy, John F. Kennedy High School, Foundation Prep, The NET East and Lafayette Academy.

Of those five, all but Esperanza are expected to qualify for a contract extension, district accountability director Rafael Simmons said at a community meeting Monday night. 

“We are estimating they will have an F,” Simmons said. 

To plead their case for extension, Esperanza must request a comprehensive review, which considers additional factors in the renewal process, such as staff interviews, parent feedback, and internal student academic performance.

Esperanza is run by Community Academies of New Orleans (CANO).

“Esperanza has the highest population of Emergent Bilinguals in the city and incredibly strong family engagement, which contribute to a truly unique school,” CANO CEO Myrialis King wrote in an email to The Lens. 

“We are hopeful for Esperanza’s extension and the ability to continue to see a positive impact on our school community this school year and beyond,” she wrote.

A long list of possible renewals – 16 total

Sixteen charter schools are up for renewal. 

Renewed contracts can run between three and ten years depending on a school’s academic, financial and operational performance. 

The schools up for renewal are: Edward Hynes Charter School – UNO, KIPP East, KIPP Leadership, Living School, Landry High School, McDonogh 35 Senior High School, New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics (Sci High), Opportunities Academy, Phillis Wheatley Community School, ReNEW Dolores T. Aaron Elementary, ReNEW Laurel Elementary School, ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary, Robert Russa Moton Charter School, Samuel J. Green Charter School, Sophie B. Wright High School and Success Prep at Thurgood Marshall.

On Nov. 14, Williams will announce her recommendations at a special Orleans Parish School Board meeting where Williams will announce her recommendations. 

Families will be notified of any closures at least four days prior to the meeting, Simmons said.

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...