Top state and local school officials have struck an agreement to return control of Istrouma High School to the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, officials said Tuesday.
Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard said he has signed the agreement, as has state Superintendent of Education John White and Warren Drake, superintendent of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.
The issue has been a topic of private talks for months.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in December authorized White to see if an accord could be struck.
“We now have an agreement in place that will ultimately give Istrouma to them for the upcoming school year,” Dobard said.
The school has been under state control since 2012 after years of academic problems.
It was closed in 2014 by the state-run RSD.
District officials hoped for a resolution of the issue during the December meeting.
However, concerns about repair costs and other topics delayed any final action.
Drake said last month it will take at least $15 million — since revised to $10.5 million — to prepare the school for classes in August.
That sparked concerns from BESE President Chas Roemer that other schools, including Capital High School, need upgrades of their own.
The agreement for who controls the school does not address money issues.
“That is solely their responsibility,” Dobard said. “That is something they want to take on.”
However, Dobard said BESE will consider a separate agenda item on capital costs during its meeting next week.
Asked for comment, Drake said in an email, “I have heard from countless members of the community on the importance of this historic school to the area, and look forward to the day when we are able to reopen the facility for use.
“We are currently taking input and developing plans to ensure that the programs housed at Istrouma are first rate and reflect the needs of the community,” he wrote.
Asked about how to finance repairs at the school, Drake said the district is “identifying several potential funding sources,” including some dollars designated for summer projects.
The school was founded in 1917.
State law requires RSD schools to remain under state control for five years, which would be the end of the 2016-17 school year.
Dobard said that is a technical point and, assuming the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board approves the agreement this month, Istrouma High will then essentially be under control of the district.
“They will have full access, total usage of the building,” he said. “Our goal had been to try to put a new charter or high-performing school in that area. But it is a very large facility and we could never really find the quality operators that we would have like to have had to manage a school in that large a facility.”
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