An informational meeting is set for next week to give parents of at-risk students at four north Lafayette public schools details on a planned charter school, Harvest Preparatory Academy. The school will accept 90 students in grades 5, 6 and 7 and will increase one grade level per year until it reaches 600 students in grades 5 through 12. HPA will accept students who currently attend J.W. Faulk and Alice Boucher elementaries, N.P. Moss Middle and Northside High.

According to Executive Director Tiffanie Lewis, the school will use project-based learning — a task- and problem-solving curriculum — and students will be equipped with individual laptop computers and iPods, as well as other high-tech electronics. The school day will also be longer at Harvest Prep: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with an extended day program until 5:30 p.m. for additional instruction, homework and extra-curricular activities. The school year at Harvest Prep will also be about two weeks longer than that of public schools in Lafayette Parish. “We want to give them what state Superintendent Paul Pastorek wants for all students in Louisiana,” Lewis says, “and that’s a world-class education.”

A huge caveat hangs over the school: It has to obtain a charter first.

Harvest Prep has its genesis in the Outreach Community Development Corporation, a non-profit comprising community members and educators concerned about the quality of education in public schools. The group will submit a charter application to the Lafayette Parish School Board at the board’s Nov. 18 meeting — an application the board could choose to reject. “You always have to expect the unexpected,” says OCDC President Charles Lewis. “As far them rejecting it, there’s a possibility they would do that because this process is very complicated with all the new technology and stuff and sometimes you just don’t want to take it on, not that you’re so much against it, but they have their hands full with what they’re doing and don’t want to take on another project.”

Obtaining a charter is critical for Harvest Prep, says Tiffanie Lewis, in order to offer a free education to its students; unlike private and parochial schools, charter schools are state funded and must meet state educational standards. Charles Lewis says they hope to open Harvest Prep for the 2010-2011 school year, but they’re willing to be patient and get it right. “If it takes longer,” he says, “we’ll just do what we have to do.”

The informational meeting for Harvest Prepartory Academy will be held Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at Heymann Park Recreation Center, 1500 South Orange Street, next to Paul Breaux Middle School.

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