Feb 28, 2024 - Education

New Orleans to directly operate first non-charter public school in 18 years

Illustration of an apple with a sticker reading NEW! instead of a leaf.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

NOLA Public Schools will begin operating the new Leah Chase School in the fall, taking over the Uptown building currently occupied by Lafayette Academy on Carrollton Avenue.

Why it matters: It'll be the first direct-run public school in New Orleans in 18 years, according to a NOLA Public Schools representative.

  • The move also closes a chapter that saw the city's schools operate under the first all-charter system.

Catch up quick: After Hurricane Katrina, the state took over New Orleans' public school system, and students began enrolling in a blend of charter and direct-run schools.

  • That changed in 2018 when control was handed back to NOLA Public Schools. A year later, the city became the first all-charter public school system, according to WWL.
  • NOLA Public Schools' role was as charter school manager, overseeing charters, buildings and levying taxes, according to Fox 8.
  • But in January, the NOLA Public Schools board indicated it wanted the system to get into direct school management again.

The latest: The board's unanimous vote to open the Leah Chase School on Monday night was met with applause, per a Fox 8 video.

  • "It's good to feel the energy from the community around school and education," NOLA Public Schools superintendent Avis Williams told Fox 8. "That's not something we always feel. And so, that gives me some hope and some optimism that this is going to be great for children."

Yes, but: Getting a school off the ground by August will be a big challenge.

  • The Leah Chase School is expected to welcome students in kindergarten through 5th grade for the first year and eventually expand to pre-K through 8th grade, according to Fox 8.
  • To do that, Williams said Monday the district will need to hire a full staff, create a marketing campaign to attract teachers and students and hire bus drivers, according to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.
  • In all, the paper reports, it'll cost about $3.7 million.

Caveat: NOLA Public Schools did directly manage Mary D. Coghill temporarily for part of the 2020-2021 school year after its operator lost its charter in the face of an F grade.

  • Coghill was taken over by the Hynes Charter School Corp. by the following school year.

What's next: NOLA Public Schools will hold a press conference Thursday to share more details about its plans for the Leah Chase School.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that NOLA Public Schools directly managed Mary D. Coghill School temporarily in the 2020-2021 school year.

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