The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board will consider Thursday its contracts with three charter schools in Baton Rouge, two of which have struggled academically.
The board, however, has yet to look at a fourth charter school, Career Academy. This career-focused high school has earned a solid F grade throughout its existence. It is not seeking a renewal as yet, but rather is trying to persuade school leaders to let it stay open for another year to prove it has turned a corner.
The board is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Thursday at the School Board Office, 1050 S. Foster Drive.
Charter schools are public schools run by private groups via charters, or contracts. The schools at issue are Type 1 charter schools, in which the contract was issued by a local school district, in this case the East Baton Rouge Parish Board.
The school in the best position appears to be THRIVE Charter School, a small inner-city boarding school that opened in 2012. It’s a B-rated school and has shown steady academic growth during its almost three years of operation. It has 80 students in grades six to eight. Starting next year, it will add high school grades, one grade at a time.
The school’s leadership has sought an early extension of its operating life in order to secure financing that would allow it to move from its current home at 1120 Government St. to a new campus that would be built off Brightside Lane.
Superintendent Bernard Taylor is recommending the school be allowed to finish out its five-year contract, which ends in 2017. If the school maintains or improves on its current performance, it’s in line for a 10-year renewal, which would allow it to continue operating until 2027.
Taylor’s staff reviewed how the school has done so far, including visiting it, and awarded it a 3.35 overall rating on a 4-point scale.
The other two charter schools on Thursday’s agenda, Inspire Charter Academy and Mentorship Academy, are being recommended for three-year renewals, which would allow them to continue in operation until 2018.
Inspire opened in 2010 in a newly constructed building located at 5454 N. Foster Drive. It is operated by the for-profit Grand Rapids, Mich.-based National Heritage Academies, which operates several other schools in Louisiana, including the new Advantage Charter Academy in Baker.
Inspire spent its first two years as an F school, but improved to a D in 2013. This year, it slipped almost 5 points but held on to its D letter grade. The school has had several leadership changes since it began. It currently has about 670 students in grades kindergarten to eight, short of its original enrollment target of 800-plus students.
While the school was stable, reviewers had concerns about the school’s plans to improve academically.
“Results thus far have not been swift and given the trend of achievement data, they are not likely to be effective,” the reviewers concluded at one point.
The third school up for renewal, Mentorship Academy, opened in 2010 in an old bank building in downtown Baton Rouge with the backing of LSU and support from a grant from BP, but has failed so far to live up to its potential.
The academy, which is two schools in one, has had academic problems and has an enrollment about half the 1,000-plus students originally envisioned. Both schools started off as D schools and slipped to F ratings in 2013. The digital arts school pulled itself up to a low D in 2014, but the science school remains an F school.
The proposal the board will consider is to merge the two schools into one.
Career Academy’s fate will not be decided until later. The school, which opened in 2011, was nearly closed last year after it lost the two campuses where it was operating. Last summer, it found space at the eleventh hour at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church in Scotlandville.