Audubon Charter School sets sights on Gentilly Terrace site as second school
Audubon Charter plans French immersion model for proposed Gentilly site
After leaving the Jean Gordon site in Gentilly that was used as swing space, Audubon Charter School is looking to return to Gentilly with a second charter school.
Uptown Audubon Charter School Principal Latoye Brown spoke at this month’s Gentilly Terrace & Gardens Improvement Association (GTGIA) meeting (Mar. 8) to answer questions regarding Audubon seeking a second charter school at the site of the Gentilly Terrace Elementary School, located at Arts and Carnot Streets.
The board that oversees Audubon Charter School, FAME Inc., applied for a second charter to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) according to reports, and they chose their preference as the Gentilly Terrace Elementary School for the site of the new school.
The elementary school is currently owned by the OPSB, but it is operated by the Recovery School District (RSD). The RSD wishes to use the Gentilly Terrace facility as a New Therapeutic Day Program location for the 2017-2018 school year, according to GTGIA. The program, which targets grades K-8, is a “separate setting” serving RSD and OPSB students diagnosed with the most severe behavioral health disabilities.
At their March 8 meeting, Gentilly Terrace President Frank Rabalais circulated copies of a GTGIA email that contacted the superintendent of the OPSB, Henderson Lewis, Ph.D., and the relevant decision makers in the Recovery School District for the future of the Gentilly Terrace Elementary School.
“The email addresses highlighted are I think the relevant individuals in the matter: Patrick Dobard, superintendent of the Recovery School District, our representative to the school board Mr. Ethan Ashley, and then Ph.D. Henderson Lewis,” Rabalais said. “So those three individuals would be the ones to email to express your feelings about the future of this fine school facility.”
Rabalais expressed to neighbors in the community that ultimate decision for the upcoming school year rests with Patrick Dobard, Superintendent of the Recovery School District.
“Two things that really stand out in my mind with Audubon is first it’s an A-rated public school,” Rabalais said. “It’s one of only about half a dozen in Orleans Parish that are A-rated elementary schools. And the second is that last year the newspaper reported that they approximately had 600 applicants for their 100 slots, so clearly there is more demand for an Audubon education than there is supply.”
Principal Brown, also the leader of Audubon Charter School, explained the school’s plan for “replication” with a second charter school. There would be no transferring or preferences in place between the two separate charter school programs.
“We want to have the best of both worlds, if you will,” Brown said. “We want to open up a Montessori French immersion school that has aspects of both our Montessori current curriculum as well as the French immersion portion of our curriculum. In the classroom environment students will learn using Montessori materials that are both in English and French.”
The proposed Audubon school in Gentilly would follow the Montessori curriculum and Louisiana state standards, featuring a strong French immersion component.
Principle Brown said Audubon has found over time that their Montessori methodology works well for students and families that are looking for learning outside of traditional structures, such as sitting in desks in straight rows. Students would also be introduced to Chinese through Audubon’s partnership with Xavier University’s Confucius Institute, which provides Chinese instructors.
“Chinese has been introduced to us as a very cost effective second language, and we plan to continue that partnership,” Brown said.
A man commented that he and his wife have had both their two kids at the Uptown Audubon Charter School for over a year and love it, enjoying how the charter school operates academically and in leadership.
“We think this would be a fantastic addition to our neighborhood, to our families, children, everyone,” he said.
When a woman asked what high school would Audubon students attend, Brown said that in the past few years, Audubon has placed more students in Ben Franklin than any other elementary school in the city.
If the Orleans Parish School Board approved the application, Audubon’s second school would open up during the 2018-2019 school year, opening with pre-K to 2nd grade and adding a grade level every year. According to Principal Brown, final decisions on the Audubon application and the use of the Gentilly Terrace Elementary School site will be released at the end of May.
Audubon Director of Operations and Admissions Alisa Dupre said that another reason they would like to be placed in Gentilly right now is because there are two public schools that will be closing this year in the area, the Gentilly Terrace Elementary School and Milestone Academy School.
“We have strongly shared with them (OPSB) that our preference is to be rooted in Gentilly,” Brown said. “Because of its very centralized location, we think that families are yearning for a school like Audubon because it is a different choice than what is traditionally offered for schools.”