New Charter School Set to Open in Jefferson Parish

Source: nola.com

Jefferson Parish is getting a new public charter school next fall called Athlos Academy of Jefferson Parish. Enrollment opened Wednesday (Nov. 1) for the elementary school to be constructed at 1001 Berhman Highway in Terrytown.

The school, founded and funded by the Idaho-based education service company Athlos Academies, will house 650 students in kindergarten through 6th grade for the 2018 academic school year. A lottery will be held in February if officials receive more applicants than the school can accommodate, spokeswoman Tabitha Bower said Wednesday.

Athlos operates a school in Minnesota and in Utah and partners with more than a dozen schools in Texas, but this will be its first in Louisiana.

Bower said Jefferson Parish was identified as a good fit for the organization’s “three-pillar approach” to education: Prepared mind, healthy body, and performance character.

“The main thing that makes us stand out as a school is that we believe in strong academics, but we believe that educating a child takes so much more than academics alone,” Bower said. “So, we have a three-pillar approach to education.”

The prepared mind is the rigorous academic curriculum, the performance character program places emphasis on being good citizens and being productive community members, while the healthy body focuses on making sure students are physically active and stimulated.

“This is based on scientific research that the mind and the body are intrinsically linked and that children who participate in physical activity and are healthy actually obtained and retained information learned in the classroom better than those who are not physically active,” Bower said. “There’s an entire athletic curriculum that we ingrain into our school that includes movement breaks in the classroom to keep people energized and thinking and 45 minutes of physical activity for every student in the school every day.”

As part of the athletic curriculum, the 90,000-square foot facility will include basketball courts and indoor turf facility.

The school is accepting enrollment of 650 students for the first year, with a goal of housing 1,200 total students. Other grade levels could be added depending on the demand, school spokeswoman Bower said.

“What we’ve done with some of our other partnership schools is that we’ve rolled out a grade level per year usually going up to 8th grade,” Bower said. “So, our plan is actually contingent on what is needed in the community and how enrollment works out for us.”

Charter officials had planned to open for the 2017 academic school year, but those plans were postponed amid concerns about state funding of charter schools, Bower said.

The Type 2 charter was authorized by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2016 after the Jefferson Parish School Board rejected the application. The BESE board will maintain oversight of the school.

The school has a local board of seven members responsible for governance and is expected to hire a school leader soon, Bower said.

“We have been committed since day one to bringing an Athlos school to this community and are excited to offer this new educational option in 2018,” board chairman Ben Bourgeois said in a news release. “We truly believe that this new school will have a positive impact to the Jefferson Parish community and are eager to open our doors to students in the new school year.”