Group tries again for charter school in St. Landry

by Heather Miller

After denial by Lafayette Parish School Board and the state, local nonprofit seeks the approval of St. Landry's school board to open charter school in Opelousas. The same nonprofit that tried to open a charter school in Lafayette Parish at N.P. Moss has applied to open a charter school in Opelousas aimed at recruiting high-poverty, at-risk students.

The Outreach Community Development Corporation announces in a press release that it has submitted its application to the St. Landry Parish School Board for JS Clark Leadership Academy, a type 1 charter school that will offer longer school days, technology-heavy teaching and project-based learning methods.

Type 1 charter schools are approved by the school board and receive a portion of the school system's per pupil funding, which is one reason for the long-standing tensions between charter school applicants and local school boards charged with funding public education.

OCDC was denied a type 1 charter in North Lafayette and also was denied a type 2 charter by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. A type 2 charter gets its per-pupil funding directly from the state and also can tap in to local property and sales tax revenues.

The previous charter application showed strengths in the group's project-based learning approach and its focus on technology, according to a report in The Advocate, but didn't offer enough details on how the school would accommodate special needs students.

"With over half of the school within the city limits of Opelousas failing and on the Academic Watch list, a choice is very much needed for parents and students who are dissatisfied with the St. Landry Parish School Board and it efforts to educate students in not only a quality facility but with a quality education," says Tiffanie Lewis, executive director for OCDC. "A charter school provides the flexibility necessary to offer at-risk, high-poverty students a new and innovative way of learning with a highly qualified and loving staff that strongly believes all students are expected to achieve at their highest potential."

If approved, the JS Clark Academy school year will be about two weeks longer than St. Landry Parish's school year. The school will begin with fifth through seventh grades and will continue to add grades every year until it reaches 12th grades.