The East Baton Rouge Parish school system is looking to save $180,000 a year by canceling a lease housing an alternative school at a Staring Lane shopping center and moving the school across town to share space with Northdale Superintendent’s Academy.
The School Board will consider the item when it meets Thursday.
If approved, the lease, which costs about $15,000 a month, would end this summer. EBR Readiness Superintendent’s Academy would then move from the south Baton Rouge shopping center seven miles northeast to Northdale, located at 10755 Cletus Drive, in time for the start of the 2016-17 school year in August.
The move is part of a series of spending cuts aimed at closing a looming multimillion-dollar budget deficit for the school system.
EBR Readiness, formerly Valley Park Alternative School, is for expelled teenagers. Northdale also is an alternative school, but it is not a disciplinary school. It is a school of choice where students who are having trouble can catch up in a smaller setting.
At a March 3 School Board discussion, Deputy Superintendent Michelle Clayton expressed confidence the two schools could coexist.
“That building holds over 500 students,” Clayton said. “We’ve spoken with both administrations. They feel they can make it work.”
Johnnie Perry, a guidance counselor at EBR Readiness, said Northdale has some pluses since it’s a school but asked how the school system will secure the campus, which is much more open than the Town South shopping center building.
Clayton said the schools will have slightly different schedules, and students will be dropped off in different places. EBR Readiness also will be able to continue using metal detectors at the Northdale campus.
“They will still be screened as they come into school,” Clayton said.
In 2013, the school system agreed to spend $3.7 million to move students from Valley Park to Town South shopping center, located at 1919 Staring Lane, so Valley Park could serve as the temporary home for Lee High School while that school was rebuilt.
The school system had previously leased space in the shopping center for an alternative school.
Board member Vereta Lee was opposed to using Town South to begin with.
“I was always against spending the amount of money this board was paying at a site it didn’t own,” Lee said.
Superintendent Warren Drake said Town South is lacking as a school setting and said Northdale will be a better experience.
“Right now, they have no outdoor area to go to,” he said “They are in a shopping center.”
Melissa Garrett, a school employee who draws attendance zone lines, said more of EBR Readiness’s students live near Northdale than live near Town South shopping center.
“The majority of students live more north than south,” Garrett said.