Jacqueline Hebert works with her first-grade students on the first day of school at Lake Charles Charter Academy Monday. (Donna Price / American Press)
Lake Charles Charter Academy teacher Chelsea Dean helps her second-grade students feel at home on the first day of the 2012-13 school year Monday. (Donna Price / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 11:07 AM
It is a year of firsts for the two area charter schools.
Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy opened its doors for the first time Monday morning, while Lake Charles Charter Academy started the school year in its brand-new building and added seventh grade for the first time.
Lake Charles Charter Academy also became the first school in Louisiana to be Cambridge International-approved, Principal Pam Quebodeaux said.
“The program is through the University of Cambridge, and it is an advanced program comparable to advanced placement courses, but it starts with kindergarten,” she said.
“We have identified a class in each grade that will be a Cambridge class based on their GPA and test scores. We already have parents trying to get their students in the program.”
Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy hopes to follow in its footsteps. It has completed the first steps for acceptance in the program and hopes to be approved by the end of school year.
“The Cambridge program is going to be great. We have several students that are on a higher academic level, and it’s going to allow us to cater to them in a way we would not be able to otherwise,” said Lorette Bass, assistant principal at Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy.
“We’re sister schools, and we’re working closely together on this,” Quebodeaux said.
Quebodeaux will serve as the principal of both charter schools for the 2012-2013 school year. She will primarily be at Lake Charles Charter Academy, but will oversee operations at both schools. Bass will be in charge of the day-to-day operations at Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy.
Bass said the new area charter school was off to a great start. “The first day is going better than anticipated. We had around 540 students show up. We were concerned with traffic, but it all ran smoothly,” Bass said.
“We set up help stations throughout the building to help parents know where their child was going. It made the process flow.”
Bass said school buses should be running by the end of the week. The schools have chartered two buses for Lake Charles Charter Academy and one for Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy. This is the first time buses have been available to charter school students in the area.
Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy welcomed 534 students in grades K-6 and employed 54 new teachers for its first school year.
“I’m excited. It’s different, it’s amazing,” said Jessica Comeaux, a fifth-grade reading teacher at Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy.
“I’m excited about the reading mastery program we’re using. It’s a scripted program that teaches the students on their level and brings them up to where they need to be.”
Lake Charles Charter Academy welcomed 766 students into its new school building on Power Centre Parkway, and Quebodeaux said students and teachers were excited to be in the permanent location.
Quebodeaux said last school year was a “learning experience” and that she is confident about the direction of this school year.
“We hit the ground running this year. We will start after-school tutoring Sept. 1 and have designed a critical schedule for this year,” she said.
“I think knowing our children and designing a program to better meet their needs is really going to strengthen us.”
Lake Charles Charter Academy added 12 teachers for this school year, primarily for the new seventh-grade class and enrichment classes.
“I’m very, very excited. I’m very motivated and very inspired,” said Crystal Pappion, a new technology teacher at Lake Charles Charter Academy. “I’m inspired by our leadership. We’re taught we have to be excellent. They demand excellence.”
Pappion said her students would be starting blogs, producing podcasts and newscasts, as well as helping other teachers integrate technology into their curriculum.
“The sky’s the limit. There are so many opportunities here,” she said. “I’m very happy to be here. I think there are many great things to come.”