A new public high school geared toward "young men" has gotten preliminary approval to open in New Orleans in the 2020-21 school year, while two charter organizations that have operated in the city for years have gotten the green light to take over schools that are failing or closing for other reasons.
Orleans Parish Schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. announced Tuesday night that he had approved three of five charter applications turned into the district this spring, including one from a nonprofit that has never before operated a school in New Orleans.
An official with Lyceum Schools, a organization that's new to public education but has submitted applications to the district four times before, said it hopes to open the Delores Taylor Arthur School for Young Men in August 2020.
The school would start with ninth grade only, accepting 150 students the first year. Officials plan to add a grade each year until it becomes a full high school with 600 students, according to Byron Arthur, the proposed school's CEO.
Although the school couldn't legally turn away girls, its "mission is to educate males," Arthur said, by using "project-based" learning and a curriculum that's focused on debate.
"We think that we add a different option for families in this environment of school choice," Arthur said, adding that he hopes to operate in Gentilly or New Orleans East. "We are implementing debate and dialogue across the curriculum."
Two other charter organizations — Educators for Quality Alternatives and Crescent City Schools — got approval to open "transformation" schools, meaning they plan to take over existing schools.
Officials with Educators for Quality Alternatives, which operates two alternative high schools in the city, said the organization plans to take over ReNEW Accelerated High School, another alternative high school located Uptown.
Educators for Quality Alternatives already operates The NET Charter High School in Central City and The NET Charter High School 2 in Gentilly.
Elizabeth Ostberg, the organization's executive director, said officials with ReNEW Schools had asked Educators for Quality Alternatives to take over so they could go back to focusing on K-8 schools.
All three alternative schools serve students who have aged out of, been suspended from or dropped out of traditional public high schools, and all had F grades on the latest report cards from the state.
Ostberg said the model for "NET 3" will follow other accelerated curriculum models, including an extended school year, access to career and technical training, and a "deep focus" on individualized instruction.
She projected an enrollment of 150 to 200 students in grades 9 through 12.
"It will be the same kids, same faculty, same building, just more targeted support," Ostberg said.
Crescent City Schools, which has been operating New Orleans schools since 2010, hasn't identified which elementary schools it plans to take over, according to Kate Mehok, its co-founder and CEO. Instead, she said, Crescent City Schools will open its next school "when the district determines there is a need."
Mehok said that once the schools do open they'll focus on the Montessori learning method that's based on hands-on learning and self-directed play.
She said the organization plans to build on successes of the Montessori-inspired program at its "flagship" school, the C-rated, Algiers-based Harriet Tubman Charter School.
"Early evidence suggests that the combination of standards-based instruction and Montessori principles are contributing to student social and academic success," Mehok wrote in an email.
Crescent City Schools currently serves more than 2,200 students in three schools throughout the city. In addition to Tubman, it operates Paul Habans Charter School, another C-rated, Algiers-based elementary school, and Akili Academy of New Orleans, a C-rated elementary school in the Upper 9th Ward.
The Orleans Parish School Board acts as an authorizer of charter schools, which use public dollars but are granted autonomy to choose their own curriculum, staff and contracts for services like transportation.
Various nonprofits can apply for a charter from the OPSB twice a year. District rules say Lewis can grant a charter to any applicant he "finds to be valid, complete, financially well-structured and educationally sound."
Lewis' recommendations will stand unless board members vote to override him. They have a month to do so.
On Tuesday, the board voted to extend a charter for a new school granted to FirstLine Schools in 2017. FirstLine, the oldest charter organization in the city, currently operates six schools: Samuel J. Green Charter School in Uptown; Arthur Ashe Charter School in Gentilly; Langston Hughes Academy in Mid-City; Phillis Wheatley Community School in Mid-City; FirstLine Live Oak in the Irish Channel; and Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School, which is closing its doors in Treme this year.
Aside from Clark, a D-rated school, and LiveOak, which isn't yet graded, all FirstLine schools got a C rating during the state's last assessment.
Buildings will be assigned in November to approved schools due to open in August 2020.
Lewis denied applications from a group that operates high schools around the country, Pathways in Education, and from the Next Generation Academy, a nonprofit that's never before operated a school.
Pathways in Education had hoped to open another alternative high school, PIE-New Orleans, to serve grades 9 through 12. It currently operates an alternative high school in Caddo Parish, as well as high schools in Phoenix; Chicago; Nampa, Idaho; and Shelby County, Tennessee.
Officials with the Next Generation Academy said they hoped to start with kindergarten and grades 1, 6 and 9 in 2020, increasing to grades K-12 over a period of five years.