Cypress Academy Announces Closure, Leaves Parents Scrambling

May 21, 2018

On Sunday night, just three days before the end of the school year, Jenny Schecter got a text from a friend saying their kids' charter school, Cypress Academy, was closing.

"My husband and I opened up the computer, read the email, and I just immediately started crying," Schecter said. 

Schecter said the announcement took her completely by surprise. Just two weeks ago, she had a conversation with the school's leader about which teachers her son would have next year.

"There was just no hint that there was a chance that Cypress wouldn't be returning next year," she said.

In the email to parents, school officials said there wasn't enough money to stay open.

"I opened up the computer, read the email, and I just immediately started crying" - Cypress Academy parent Jenny Schecter

"Unfortunately, we remain a relatively small school and our lack of scale in student numbers makes it very difficult to pay for the quality our students and families have come to expect and deserve," the email read. 

Cypress Academy serves 105 students in kindergarten through third grade.

Cypress Academy Board Chair Lance Query says the Orleans Parish School Board warned them months ago they needed to cut costs, but they struggled to cut back and maintain quality instruction.

"Earlier in the year, we did try a reduction in staffing, and it was very unsuccessful. We could not be Cypress by cutting those positions," Query said.

"We acted in good faith that we were going to be able to keep our doors open. It didn't work out that way" - Cypress Academy Board Chair Lance Query

Query says Cypress thought they could make ends meet with private donations, but not enough money came through. Then in early May, Query says Cypress leaders met with Orleans Parish School Superintendent Henderson Lewis to ask for additional funding, but that didn't pan out either. 

When asked why Cypress waited to alert parents their school could close, Query said school leaders thought they would secure enough funding.

"We were being hopeful that we could have pulled this off," Query said in a phone interview. "We acted in good faith that we were going to be able to keep our doors open. It didn't work out that way," he said.

WWNO reached out to the Orleans Parish School Board, but the district declined to grant us an interview or answer any questions on the matter. 

Cypress Academy leaders say the school will be absorbed into Lafayette Academy Extension at Paul Dunbar in Hollygrove. Lafayette Academy is part of the Choice Foundation network, which also runs Esperanza Charter School. Query says school leaders are still working out the details of how the school will be organized. He says Cypress Academy is hoping some of their teachers will be hired at Lafayette Academy.

"If we bring in a large group of kids, obviously they're going to need teachers," Query said.

He says Choice Foundation staff will be interviewing Cypress teachers for possible employment later this week. 

Some parents, like Schecter, who are unhappy with the change are looking for another school. But the news of the closure came days before the end of the OneApp enrollment application deadline, and the district's most desirable public schools are already full.

Support for WWNO's education reporting comes from Entergy.