land use schools

Warren Easton holds groundbreaking ceremony for its expansion project

Architect’s rendering of proposed Warren Easton Ninth Grade Academy at 3026 Canal St. (Manning Architecture, via City Planning Commission)

Warren Easton Charter High School officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday (Feb. 14), ceremoniously beginning its planned expansion across Canal Street, where it plans to open its Ninth Grade Academy.

After years of seeking ways to expand its footprint to admit more freshmen, in 2015 the charter board purchased the former Meadows-Draughon Business College at 3026-30 Canal St., a five-story building directly across from the 110-year-old school.

The renovation is expected to be completed in August 2022 for the upcoming 2022-23 school year. The school will then be able to admit another 100 ninth-grade students.

As the top-rated open-admission Orleans Parish high school, Warren Easton is routinely overwhelmed with applications. Each year, more than 2,500 families apply for 250 ninth-grade seats at Warren Easton, according to Principal and CEO Mervin Jackson.

When the renovation is complete, all 350 freshman students will spend their entire day in the annex across from the historic school where the 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders will attend classes.

“This new Ninth Grade Academy represents years of hard work in order to expand and provide more families with the opportunity to attend Warren Easton Charter High School,” Jackson said in a press release.

This plan allows Warren Easton not only to admit more students, it follows a current best-practice in secondary education: Studies have shown that ninth-grade academies can ease the transition between middle school and high school and set the 14-year-olds on a more successful path.

“In addition, ninth grade academies like this one give students the attention they need during their challenging freshman year,” said Easton’s Charter Board Chairman David Garland. “These academies improve grades as students become better acquainted with the rigors of a high school curriculum and mature in the process.”

Jackson and Garland were joined by NOLA-PS Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. and School Board President Olin G. Parker to break ground on the renovation of the long-vacant building.  The Warren Easton Fighting Eagles Marching Band, Marching Units, Color Guards, and teacher and student speakers also took part in the ceremony.

The McDonnel Group LLC and Manning Architects are in charge of the historic renovation.

The charter board also purchased five empty lots on the square block: two fronting South Salcedo Street, two fronting Cleveland Avenue and one fronting South Gayoso Street.

The additional land gives Warren Easton’s ninth-grade annex a parking lot — plus space for school bus loading and unloading and for an outdoor dining area. There are, however, homes that will remain within the square block.

School buses will drop off and pick up the ninth-graders behind the school rather than on Canal Street, according to a plan that needs the city’s approval. The annex’s immediate neighbors, who have generally supported Warren Easton’s past expansions, oppose the plan to have the buses immediately outside their homes.

Warren Easton’s conditional request is on the City Council’s agenda for Thursday (Feb. 17).

Aerial map shows the block that will contain the Warren Easton annex, which is outlined in blue. The empty lots abutting homes will be incorporated into the campus. (Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office)

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