- Associated Press - Monday, July 7, 2014

KENNER, La. (AP) - A science-focused charter school in Kenner must show Jefferson Parish school officials it will be able to increase enrollment of minority and “at-risk” students before it can add a high school to its program.

The New Orleans Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1rHgQ6a ) that the Jefferson Parish School District recently denied permission for the expansion by the Kenner Discovery Health Sciences Academy.

Kenner Discovery submitted a plan to increase enrollment of black students and students who are low-income, have special needs or are not performing at grade level. But Jefferson Superintendent James Meza told school officials the plan is unlikely to yield the required results.

Kenner Discovery, which opened last summer, has classes from prekindergarten through eighth grade. Its expansion plan called for the addition of ninth grade through 12th grade as well as additional classes in the lower grades.

The key issue in expanding the school is meeting state and federal guidelines that require charter schools to mirror the population of the larger district.

About 58 percent of Kenner Discovery’s students are considered to be at-risk, a percentage that is “significantly below” the 77 percent of students in that category throughout the entire district, Meza wrote in a letter to school officials. Also, only about 16 percent of the school’s students are black, roughly half the percentage required to meet the district’s desegregation requirements, he said.

The school’s executive officer, Patty Glaser, said the school’s open enrollment policy has made it difficult to meet the parish’s standards.

“We cannot withhold admission to any students, whether they are eligible for free or reduced (-price) lunch or not,” Glaser said in a letter to parents. “We are also a product of our current location, which has a high demand for public school educational options, with a lower population of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch.”

In his letter to Glaser, Meza said he would be willing to consider future plans.

“As superintendent, I have an obligation to ensure that all schools are in compliance with applicable state and federal law and district policy. More importantly, it is my obligation to ensure that our schools are serving the needs of all of the district’s children,” Meza said. “Insofar as the plan you have presented is not likely to yield the required results, I cannot recommend approval of the expansion at this time. We are, however, willing to work with you and to consider alternative plans to accomplish our shared goal of providing excellent educational opportunities to the children of Jefferson Parish.”

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Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, https://www.neworleansadvocate.com


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