Carondelet Leadership Academy (CLA), a new charter school, will be opening in (where else) Carondelet next fall, in the old St. Boniface school at 7604 Michigan Avenue. The school will start out with 300 students in kindergarten through fifth grade but will expand up through eighth grade in future years.
Unlike many other charter schools, CLA will primarily serve students in the Carondelet neighborhood. "There aren't a lot of public schools in the neighborhood," explains Diane Poelker, a representative from Casey Communications who serves as the school's spokeswoman. "There's a large void, a lot of kids who don't have a school within walking distance."
Several neighborhood organizations, including Carondelet Community Betterment Federation, South Broadway Merchants Assocation and Carondelet Family YMCA, have agreed to work in partnership with CLA. Missouri Baptist University is the school's sponsor. It will supervise the curriculum to make sure it meets state standards and provide workshops and professional development for the teachers.
CLA is part of a Chicago-based nonprofit education management firm, American Quality Schools, which currently operates twelve charter schools in Chicago and northern Indiana and places a strong emphasis on parental involvement.
"There are no pre-requirements [for admission]," says Poelker. "There's nothing like a focus on the arts or a program for gifted students. There will be a focus on building leadership skills." CLA just began accepting student applications two weeks ago. Poelker isn't sure what will happen if the number of applications exceeds number of available spots.
The student:teacher ratio, Poelker estimates, will be 12:1. Patrice Coffin will be the school's principal. The school is still in the process of hiring the rest of its faculty and staff.
"Our country is on the cusp of an educational revolution," said AQS regional manager Gloria Shelton in a press release. "As a career public school educator, I've always been somewhat of a charter school skeptic. But AQS' strong track record, high achieving students and satisfied parents convinced me of the importance of offering robust charter school options for St. Louis students."