Faced with opposition Wednesday, leaders of Louisiana’s first online charter school for most grades dropped plans to immediately expand its enrollment by 67 percent.
The school, which is called Louisiana Connections Academy, began operations Monday with nearly 600 students from kindergarten through 12th grade, including about 100 from the Baton Rouge area.
Wade Henderson, president of the school’s seven-member board, hoped to win permission on Wednesday from a committee of the state’s top school board to raise the enrollment cap to 1,000 students.
However, officials of the state Department of Education recommended to a panel of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that the request be denied.
The denial stemmed from the fact that “the school has not yet demonstrated its performance,” and because officials need time to see how virtual schools are performing, according to documents provided to BESE members.
Penny Dastugue, president of BESE, questioned the proposed enrollment cap increase on Tuesday but said she was willing to listen to arguments.
Henderson said in a telephone interview that he never planned to push his request if officials in the state office that oversee charter schools opposed expansion.
He said that, while officials seemed receptive to the request in March, new controversy over charter school rules changed the outlook, and put them under tighter scrutiny.
Earlier this month, BESE revoked the charter for a school in New Orleans.
In addition, Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School is under investigation, largely because it is run by the same group that oversaw the New Orleans school.
Henderson said Monday that 574 students are enrolled in his school.
About 400 more were approved pending a state decision on whether the enrollment cap would be raised.
Asked about the status of schools for those families Henderson said, “In this case they always knew that this was not a sure thing.
“We kept everybody up to date on what the possibilities were,” he said.
Henderson said that, under the terms of the charter agreement with the state, the enrollment cap is set to rise to 750 for the 2012-13 school year and 1,000 for the 2013-14 school year.
He said the school could admit 900 students next year with the 750 student cap and 20 percent margin for adjustment, which would allow another 150 students.
Students enrolled in the academy rely on computers, email and web conferencing to navigate the school year.
Charters are public schools financed with tax dollars and are overseen by independent boards.
About 33,000 students attend charter schools in Louisiana, which is about five percent of public school enrollment.