The French quarter could lose its last school if Plessy leaves the “little red school” | Education
Homer Plessy Community Schools could give way to a historic French Quarter school building known as the “Little Red Schoolhouse” if it can move into another Bywater building that could accommodate an extension, the school principal said on Friday. ‘school.
The arts-focused school is among those vying for places in three buildings owned by the Orleans Parish Public School District that will be vacated at the end of this school year. In a letter to the Plessy school community, school principal Meghan Raychaudhuri said needed repairs to the French Quarter building would be too costly and new space in the Bywater would allow the school to expand its arts spaces and to better serve special education students.
Homer Plessy, a D-rated school, teaches kindergarten through fourth grade on its French Quarter campus and grades five through eight on its campus less than a mile from St. Philip Street in Treme.
“What I’ve heard from the community is that they want a school in the French Quarter,” Raychaudhuri told parents during a meeting last week to discuss a possible move. “My obligation as leader of this organization is to protect its long-term existence and protect its stability.”
Homer Plessy is among the schools eligible to apply for the three buildings which will be empty at the end of the year. The school has applied to move into Dr. Charles Drew Elementary School, 3819 St. Claude Avenue. The building is home to Arise Academy, but its charter has not been renewed due to academic failure, financial management issues, and other issues.
NOLA Public Schools will decide who can move into the buildings by March 18.
If approved, Homer Plessy’s move would leave the French Quarter without any schools – public or private – and 721 St. Philip St. would be without school for the first time since 1860, according to New Orleans Historic Property Records. Nearly a decade ago, the Archdiocese of New Orleans closed Cathedral Academy, established in 1914 as St. Louis Cathedral School, which was the last Catholic school in the French Quarter. The building was then transformed into luxury apartments, called The Academy.
Homer Plessy’s board would also have to approve any move, Raychaudhuri told the parents. The school’s Treme opened in 2020.
The French Quarter school building dates from the 1930s and needs a complete renovation, Raychaudhuri said. Its heating, cooling and plumbing systems need fixing, and water sometimes pools in classrooms.
“The building’s major mechanical systems are nearing the end of their useful life, and we know that costly repairs are on the horizon,” Raychaudhuri said.
Because the school district isn’t planning any renovations anytime soon, the charter should buy it and cover the renovations. Obtaining funding would be difficult, and the resulting debt would “drain the class’s resources for years to come,” Raychaudhuri said.
Homer Plessy Community Schools has occupied the building since 2017, when it succeeded KIPP’s McDonogh 15 School for the Creative Arts, another public school with an arts program. The school moved from the 7th Arrondissement to the French Quarter in part to maintain its economic and racial diversity goals, or as its mission statement puts it, to “have hallways that reflect the same diversity we see on our sidewalks.”
Last year, the school had 52% black students, 27% white students and 9% Latino students, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Teddy McGlenn-Wright, a parent of two Homer Plessy students who lives in Treme, fears the move to the Bywater will make the student body whiter and wealthier. He said the school is an integral part of the French Quarter neighborhood.
“It’s an arts-based program in a place surrounded by artists,” he said.
At the end of this school year, three buildings belonging to the school district will be empty. In addition to the Drew building, IDEA Oscar Dunn will leave Frances Gaudet School on Hayne Boulevard, and FirstLine Live Oak will leave its building on Constance Street, according to NOLA Public Schools.
The Orleans Parish School Board said the board must offer any unoccupied building to charter schools before it is put up for sale.
Chris Olsen, who has a kindergarten and a sophomore at Plessy, said he and his wife chose the school for its arts program, bolstered by its location in the heart of the French Quarter.
from Olsen online petition urging the school to stay collected nearly 1,500 signatures.
Avery Brewton, whose child is in second grade at Homer Plessy, said the French Quarter “has become part of our daily lives”. When his second year student heard that the school might be moving, he asked if the children would still be playing at the nearby Cabrini Playground and if the teachers would be moving as well. If the school moves, she’s not sure he’ll stay.
“Given everything we’ve been through, I’m going to make sure my child is okay,” she said. “Will it be Homer Plessy? It’s our community, but we’ll see.