Organizers of a new French immersion school planned for the historic Sunset High School say they won't give up.
This week, they faced two setbacks when one school board rejected their application and another tabled it - after months of negotiations.
Sunset native Carl Lawrence was part of the first integrated class at Sunset back in 1969 and is happy to know that his alma mater may soon have students fill the halls once again.
"The framework and everything is still there, so I guess with a couple million dollars and some good contractors, it probably can come back to life again," Lawrence said.
Over the last year, the charter school has found difficulty convincing Acadiana parishes to allow students to go to it. At a St. Landry Parish School Board meeting Thursday night, once again, the issue of what to do with the historic building came up.
"The contract is approximately 99 percent complete; however, there are some small details that the board was not comfortable with at this time, so, therefore, they tabled it," said Superintendent Patrick Jenkins.
"It's about numbers," said school board member Milton Ambres. "They started out getting thirty students from us, and now, they just don't have the numbers."
St. Landry Parish School Board members say the charter school is seeking thirty more students from the parish to add to its rolls before it can open.
However, we spoke with the school's architect and board member, Stephen Ortego, today, and he said that's not correct; nearly 75 families already have applied to attend the school.
Unfortunately, with the Lafayette Parish School Board's rejection of the school's request to enroll some students from Carencro and the St. Landry Parish School Board's tabling of a contract that has been discussed for months, there will be a delay. French immersion schools generally hire native French speakers through CODOFIL, but that takes time.
"Now, we can't even apply through CODOFIL to get our teachers," Ortego said.
The plan now is for the school's board to meet on Monday to discuss plans. Local school system approval is not required for charter schools to open; schools can apply directly to the state Department of Education for certification once the local school system has formally rejected an application.
"We're going to get together and discuss the next step," Ortego said. "There are things the state allows us to do, but unfortunately, that would be next year. We don't plan on stopping. We'll continue to fight for those families who want to put their children in French immersion in Sunset."