John McDonogh High building to go to Bricolage, elementary school charter operator _lowres

Advocate file photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- Students leave John McDonogh High School in New Orleans, La. Friday, Jan. 17, 2014.

A relatively new charter school operator in New Orleans will take over the old John McDonogh High School building, turning the Esplanade Avenue campus into an elementary and middle school when it reopens in three years after a full renovation.

State officials said Wednesday that Bricolage Academy, which opened with an initial class of kindergartners two years ago in Touro Synagogue on St. Charles Avenue, will move into John McDonogh for the 2018-19 school year.

The decision means that another school building from the state-run Recovery School District will now revert to the Orleans Parish School Board, the local elected body.

Most schools swept into the RSD after Hurricane Katrina remain under state control, but John McDonogh will join Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School and the Andrew H. Wilson campus in returning to the board.

Like Wilson, the John McDonogh campus will be going back to the board almost incidentally.

After taking applications for the John McDonogh site from various charter organizations, RSD officials settled on a group that happens to fall under the School Board, which authorized Bricolage to open in 2012. The school is one of a handful of new charters the board has opened in the past few years.

However, the decision did not appease community activists who have been pushing for the school’s return to local control. A group called the John McDonogh Steering Committee released a statement pointing out that state Education Superintendent John White promised the students at John McDonogh a fully renovated building a few years ago.

“John McDonogh was a community school,” committee spokeswoman Brenda Square said. “Local tax-paying residents and not a new charter school operator should determine the future of John McDonogh.”

State officials have defended their process for choosing school operators. For the most recent building assignments, they took input from a committee made up of various civic groups, including the Urban League of Greater New Orleans and the Micah Project.

“The selection of Bricolage Academy to expand and serve New Orleans students in the John McDonogh building means faster access to high-quality seats for our city,” RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard said.

“Bricolage offers a learning experience that focuses on creative problem-solving, a unique addition to our city’s portfolio of schools.”