Kudos to OPSB

OPSB took a huge step forward last week by passing a strong charter school policy (Policy HA).

Policy HA was needed because OPSB did not have clear and consistent rules governing charter school operations. As a result, some OPSB charters participate in the city’s common enrollment system; others do not. Some provide transportation; others do not. And some have negotiated special neighborhood preferences that are different from the citywide zones that almost all other schools in the city use. These different rules fostered distrust between schools and confusion for parents trying to navigate the system of schools. (Note: The RSD requires all of its charter schools to participate in EnrollNOLA (OneApp) and to provide transportation.)

For OPSB to be a good authorizer and regulator of charter schools, it needed policy that created consistent rules for everyone and a framework for new charter schools. Policy HA lays an excellent foundation.

New Charter Schools: Going forward, all new charter schools authorized by OPSB:
  • Must provide transportation.
  • Must participate in the citywide enrollment system (OneApp/EnrollNOLA).
  • Cannot have a neighborhood attendance zone different than the zones in the citywide enrollment plan.
  • Cannot be academically selective.
  • Can, as part of its initial charter application, have non-academic admission criteria, tied into its mission and scope. For example, Cypress Academy has a mission-specific focus on early intervention in reading and reserves spaces for students with dyslexia.

Existing Charter Schools: Policy HA differentiates between OPSB’s four selective-admission charter schools and their other existing charter schools, which are open-admission.

All existing open-admission schools, upon their charter renewal
  • Must provide free transportation – bus service for students in grades K-6 and the option of bus tokens for students in grades 7-12. Currently, there are some open-admission OPSB schools not providing transportation.
  • Must participate in OneApp/EnrollNOLA, with some allowances for current practices:
    • Currently, four OPSB charters (Hynes, Harte, Karr and Foundation Prep) have 100% neighborhood preferences that do not align with the citywide attendance zones. Policy HA grandfathers (keeps) these zip code preferences, but lowers them from 100% of enrollment to 67%.
    • Hynes gets to continue to maintain a wait list until 2021.

Hence, for the 2017-18 school year, all open-admission RSD and OPSB charter schools will be participating in OneApp/EnrollNOLA and providing transportation.

The four selective admission schools – Audubon, Franklin High School, Lake Forrest and Lusher:
  • Retain their academic selective-admissions standards as long as they remain high performing schools.
  • Must participate in OneApp/Enroll NOLA when their charters renew and will be allowed to have a wait list. (Audubon renews in 2017; the remaining three renew in 2021.)
  • Must provide transportation if a parent requests it (can be bus tokens).
  • Must be citywide access schools, with no neighborhood preferences. Lusher’s current neighborhood preference will end with the 2017-18 school year.
Other Highlights:
  • Any charter school, with the approval of the superintendent, can establish focused programs based on student preference. These focused programs can be a specific choice in OneApp/EnrollNOLA and are limited to a maximum of 33% of a school’s enrollment. An example of a focused program could be a high school that offers a career technical education program in health sciences.
  • Charter boards must include a parent or legal guardian of a student currently enrolled in the school.
  • The policy expressly acknowledges charter school autonomy over curriculum, personnel, calendars, contracts and finances.