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Choosing to Charter School

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New Orleans charter schools are ranked as some of the best in the United States.

momsoct2016Eleven years after Hurricane Katrina, a public school system that — on the whole — was failing to serve the interests of all of its children, is now successfully offering options to every family wanting a public education. Charter schools have reconstructed our city’s landscape and have redefined what it means to be a child of New Orleans. Before the storm, a handful of public schools held the distinction of being “good,” and these were limited to particular neighborhoods that were not affordable for the majority of the diverse population of our city.

With the success of School Choice, which charter schools afford to families from all walks of life, our youth have equal opportunity. Kids have the chance to be a part of a city, not just a neighborhood. A family that lives Uptown may attend school in Gentilly, the Bywater, etc., and vice versa. People may identify with one neighborhood over another, but they are not defined by an address when seeking an education. And while OPSB Charters and RSD Charters triumphantly allow the crossing of old school district lines, even parish lines do not stand in the way of Independent BESE Charter Schools (a part of OPSB), which offer services to families both inside and outside of Orleans Parish.

As a parent who has successfully navigated the school application experience more than once, I am confident that the following are resources that will help others navigate the School Choice and enrollment process, which can be daunting. So, in an effort to expedite your Google searches (and save you from being too overwhelmed), these sites are based on a knowledge-building scale — from “What is a charter school?” through “How do I enroll?”

Louisiana Charter Schools, lacharterschools.org

This website will answer your questions about what Louisiana charter schools are, who they serve, who governs them, and the laws and upcoming legislation that will affect the future of charters in our state.
New Orleans Parents’ Guide to Public School, neworleansparentsguide.org/downloads.php

This comprehensive guide lists each public school in New Orleans, along with their mission statements, the services they offer, test performance, class size, demographic information, transportation and much more.

It is available for download from the website in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. An English language hard copy can be picked up at a branch of the New Orleans Public Library or a public school. The Spanish and Vietnamese hard copies are available at Enroll NOLA Family Resource Centers.
New Orleans Guide to High School and Beyond, urbanleagueneworleans.org

This guide is very similar to the New Orleans Parents’ Guide to Public Schools. However, it focuses specifically on high school in New Orleans (both public and private schools). It includes exercises and activities to help students determine which schools are a good fit — along with application guidelines, essay writing prep and interview etiquette. It is compiled by the Urban League of Greater New Orleans. The Fall 2016 hard copy guide should be available at your local library branch by the end of September. The online version is being updated and should also be available this fall under Programs/Publications.
Enroll NOLA, EnrollNOLA.org

Enroll NOLA processes applications for the bulk of New Orleans Schools. One application (OneApp) is filled out via the enrollnola.org website. You input your information and list the schools to which you are applying in the order of preference. Children are placed in the selected schools via lottery, much like a fraternity recruitment process.

The Greater New Orleans Collaborative of Charter Schools is composed of charter schools that do not participate in the OneApp process. The GNOCCS website (gnocollaborative.com) has more information.
These sites and catalogues should get you started. They are very informative and have helped us place three children in school. With each child, there were mandatory open houses and school tours in order to complete applications. There was also much hand wringing over the incomprehensible wait period between OneApp’s deadline and when letters of acceptance are released. But that is a topic for a different day.

In a state that is ranked at the bottom of almost every poll in the nation, our New Orleans charter schools are ranked as some of the best in the United States. Each charter school offers a unique experience and perspective, and our family got to choose what we wanted that to be. We are fortunate, and it is amazing to be a part of something that makes our state and our city great. Charter schools and School Choice are allowing us to give the moon to our children of the Crescent City.