A north Baton Rouge charter school’s decision to stop offering seventh and eighth grades may provide a home for a Baton Rouge school for expelled students.
J.K. Haynes Charter Middle School,which opened in fall 2014, informed parents as the school year was ending in May that it was discontinuing those two grades.
Attorney Nelson Taylor, chairman of the board of directors for the charter school organization, said its middle school campus, formerly Banks Elementary, is in poor shape, and the organization doesn’t have enough money to bring it up to par.
“The Banks school is not an appropriate facility for a middle school,” Taylor said. “In fact, we think it’s dangerous.”
Taylor said its middle school is not dead. J.K. Haynes is looking to move the sixth grade 10 blocks north to its parent school, J.K. Haynes Charter Elementary, 8600 Elm Grove Garden Drive. And over the next year, the organization will look for a new home where it can revive seventh and eighth grades.
“We want these children. These are probably some of the toughest children to educate,” he said. “We just want to find facilities where we can deal with them.”
The East Baton Rouge Parish school system, however, is not spooked. Superintendent Warren Drake is looking seriously at moving EBR Readiness Superintendent’s Academy, its school for expelled teenagers, onto the Banks campus.
Nelson said J.K. Haynes, which has a lease to use Banks, will work with Drake if he wants to occupy the old school. He noted that the charter school organization has a good relationship with the school system going back to when it first opened its elementary school in 1997.
“They have the money to fix (Banks) up; we don’t,” Nelson said.
EBR Readiness Superintendent’s Academy began searching for a new home in March when the School Board voted to cancel its $180,000-a-year lease at a Staring Lane shopping center; the lease expires June 30.
The cost-cutting move called originally for the expulsion center to move across town and share space with Northdale Superintendent’s Academy, 10755 Cletus Drive.
EBR Readiness, formerly known as Valley Park Alternative School, is for expelled teenagers, and its enrollment fluctuates but rarely exceeds 200 students. 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.
Drake said he’s increasingly had second thoughts about putting both schools on the same campus.
“They have very different populations of students,” Drake said. “It was not ideal.”
On June 2, Drake suggested an alternative — a vacant elementary school at 2525 Wyandotte St. The old building, which was built in 1927, was most recently a school for struggling students but for years educated 4-year-old children and was known as the Wyandotte Center.
Board member Vereta Lee said she’s visited Wyandotte and has concerns.
“It may not be a building conducive to learning,” she said. “I’m looking at crime and everything. I just don’t like what I saw.”
The School Board on Thursday voted to move the school to Wyandotte but gave Drake flexibility to change plans to move elsewhere, namely the campus J.K. Haynes, if something becomes available. Drake said if the J.K. Haynes options fall through, Wyandotte is his fallback, but Drake said he shares some of Lee’s concerns.
Middle school is a newer area for J.K Haynes. Its elementary school is one of the original three charter schools in the capital city and has had a good reputation through the years. Charter schools are public schools run by private organizations.
J.K. Haynes leaders fought hard for years to expand into middle school. The state rejected its application, but East Baton Rouge Parish finally said yes.
The resulting school, though, has attracted less than half of the 400 students its backers originally wanted. And it has not done well academically. The elementary and the middle school received a combined school report card this year, and it was not good. J.K. Haynes dropped a total of 46 points, diving from a B down to an F grade.