After years of seeking a permanent home for them, Audubon Charter School has learned its middle school students will move out of their cramped Milan Street building as soon as next summer into the former Banneker School building much closer to Audubon's flagship campus on Broadway.
That decision effectively ends a long-running dispute between Audubon and Lusher charter schools over which of the two A-rated Uptown schools will receive the former Allen School building on Loyola Avenue at Nashville.
After Sci High moves out of the Allen building and into its new building in Mid-City, Lusher will receive the Allen building, which is adjacent to its high school building on Freret Street, the former Fortier High, according to reports from the Orleans Parish School Board.
Audubon submitted applications to the School Board to have its middle school assigned to either the Allen building or Banneker, and it held meetings with parents over the summer about both possibilities, CEO Latoye Brown said at Saturday’s meeting of the school’s governing board.
In July, the OPSB announced that Audubon will move into Banneker after this year’s occupant, KIPP Believe Primary, moves into its own permanent home on St. Bernard Avenue in Gentilly in 2019.
“We now have a vision for the future of where the upper campus will be located,” Brown said.
Audubon and Lusher expressed competing claims to the Allen building for years. At the same meeting of the OPSB Property Committee in July at which Audubon’s assignment to the Banneker building was announced, the Allen building was assigned to Lusher, according to minutes from the meeting.
“We liked the Allen building, and we applied for the Allen building as well, but the OPSB decided that Lusher would be suited for that site,” Brown said.
In 2010, Lusher added two extra sections of kindergarten in a satellite campus at the Jewish Community Center in hopes of expanding its student population, but it was unable to find a permanent site for that expansion and absorbed those students back into its main campus two years later.
Lusher's lower school is in its original campus on Willow Street. Its middle and high schools are on Freret.
Woody Koppel, the School Board member whose district includes both the Lusher and Audubon campuses, said gaining the Allen building will likely allow Lusher to grow.
“You have such tremendous push on all grades,” Koppel said. “It’s just going to increase the number of kids they can take on across all grade levels.”
The Banneker building is just a few blocks from Audubon's Broadway campus, making it more convenient for parents with students at both campuses.
The building has more classrooms than the cramped and deteriorating Milan Street building, the onetime McDonogh No. 7, and the individual Banneker classrooms are larger than those on Milan as well. On the other hand, Audubon will lose some outdoor space in the move.
Audubon leaders have already visited the site with engineers who have begun drafting designs for the best way to fit Audubon’s students into the campus, Brown said.
“They have shown us some crude sketches for how they can make it work, so that’s our next step,” Brown said. “Proximitywise, you couldn’t beat it. It's going to be a tight fit, but I’m cautiously optimistic the architects and engineers can figure out a solution that’s going to work for us. For right now, it really is our best option.”
The move could come as soon as next summer, in advance of the 2019-20 school year, Brown said. Meanwhile, the Audubon staff will use parents’ comments from the summer meetings to start building a master plan for the use of the Banneker site.
“From an aesthetic perspective, we would make some changes, because it doesn’t really fit the Audubon aesthetic,” Brown said. “But parents are happy because we have a plan.”