LAFAYETTE — Two organizations pitched proposals Wednesday to build and open new charter schools as soon as the 2014-15 school year in collaboration with the Lafayette Parish School Board.
The groups, Michigan-based National Heritage Academies and Florida-based Charter Schools USA, manage schools in Louisiana and have the financial capital to build new schools in the parish, representatives from both companies told the board Wednesday.
The organizations applied to open Type 1 charters, which are schools that operate in partnership with a local school board. Such schools receive a share of state per pupil funding and oversight from the local school board.
No charter schools operate in the parish. The board has denied previous requests from nonprofit groups to open a Type 1 charter.
Both charter proposals cleared initial reviews overseen by the Louisiana Department of Education. They now move on to interview rounds in the next two weeks as part of a more streamlined vetting process for charter school applications.
The Lafayette, Jefferson and East Baton Rouge Parish school systems agreed to the more streamlined vetting process in collaboration with the state, said Janet Pope, a Lafayette Parish school system social studies, voucher and charter specialist.
If the proposals clear the interview round, the School Board could make a decision on approving the new charter schools in July, Pope said.
If the applications are denied, the organizations would have the opportunity to reapply to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for a Type 2 charter. Type 2 charter schools receive state per pupil funding and oversight from BESE.
Both presenters Wednesday stressed that their schools’ plans seek to align with the district’s turnaround plan, a six-year plan for district improvement. They also offer to help fill the district’s need for more facilities.
Megan DeKraker, director of new charter school development for National Heritage Academies, said her group is prepared to invest $5 million to $9 million initially for a 45,000-square-foot building that would be built wherever the board wants.
The school would eventually serve grades K-8, but begin in the 2014 school year with grades K-5 and each year, add a grade. She said the school could also accommodate preschool classes.
Charter Schools USA’s application includes three schools phased in over three school years. A grades K-8 school for north Lafayette Parish is proposed to open first — by August 2014, followed by a 2015 opening for a K-8 school in the southern part of the parish and 2017 is the target for a new high school in the parish.
Charter Schools USA is prepared to spend $10 million to $15 million per school, said Jay Augustine, Charter Schools USA director of development and legal affairs.
Charter Schools USA manages 56 charter schools, three district turnaround schools and one virtual school in seven states, he said. It has a 68 percent minority student population and its graduation rate was 93.4 percent in 2012, he said.
It operates two schools in Lake Charles and in August will open a Type 2 charter in Baton Rouge, authorized by BESE, and a Type 1 charter in Shreveport.
National Heritage Academies operates a Type 1 charter school in Baton Rouge, Inspire Academy, in partnership with the East Baton Rouge School System.
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board denied the company’s request in 2011 to open a second Type 1 with members citing Inspire Academy’s low performance in its initial year of operation.
DeKraker said that in addition to Lafayette Parish, the group’s charter application involves a five-year plan to open schools in the Greater Baton Rouge area, Jefferson Parish and Caddo Parish.
The group operates 74 schools in nine states and 63 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch, which is an indicator of poverty levels, DeKraker said.
She added that the majority of students enter their schools below grade level, however, these students charted a growth of 160 percent in the 2011-12 school year.
The group’s schools focus on parental partnership, moral focus or character development, academic excellence and student responsibility, she said.
“We ask students to take responsibility not only for their behavior but their learning,”