Friday, April 26, 2013

LISA Academy 'blind-sided' by city?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 6:46 AM

TRAFFIC SNARL: LISA Academys location in office park creates a jam when school lets out.
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  • TRAFFIC SNARL: LISA Academy's location in office park creates a jam when school lets out.
Claudia Lauer continues her reporting in the Democrat-Gazette today on Lisa Academy's expansion from 600 to 790 students without required city approval. LISA has brought in charter school legal top gun Jess Askew to pitch this as nothing but a couple of grouchy soreheads getting in the way of the superior education of children with their complaints about the nasty traffic snarl that develops in the tight little West Little Rock office park when school lets out in the afternoon.

The school, Lauer reports, has come up with an all-hands-on-deck traffic warden system augmented by private security. It COULD stagger school start and release times, but, no, that would be inconvenient to the school. I mean, really, inconvenience the school just because of a couple of cranky neighbors?

I was most interested in the school's remark that it had been "blind-sided" by the city's enforcement of zoning rules.

Through the wonder of the Internet, you can go back to January 2011 when the Planning Commission approved an expansion for LISA to 600 students. It had to present a detailed plan to qualify for that expansion and it included a great deal of discussion of and accommodation for the traffic that would be generated by a facility serving 600 students. LISA was well aware of planning rules then and traffic needs then. Was it really blind-sided by the city's interest NOW in the fact that it had increased enrollment by almost a third over what had been permitted without first going through the required city planning process? I remain interested in any internal communications at the alleged public school about this expansion plan. Did no one remember the 2011 hearing at which traffic requirements were put in place for 600 students? Maybe LISA was just blind-sided by learning that rules really do apply to them. That's not what charter schools in Arkansas had been accustomed to in their beginning years.

A city planning process in which major facility expansions are approved after the fact is not a planning process at all. But once Jess Askew is done with the City Board at a coming hearing, I'm sure this can be worked out. Maybe Walton charter school lobbyist Luke Gordy can also come down and back Askew up. How can Arkansas have school choice if grouchy neighbors and city hall bureaucrats and laws and petty stuff like that get in the way?

PS — In pinpointing the school on a Google map, I happened to run across a comment about LISA by someone who described herself as an unhappy parent of a former student. Her observations included this remark about the 2011-2012 school year, BEFORE the 190-student expansion.

... Getting in and out is a nightmare. There is no parking, no real traffic control, and the street is full of horrible potholes. ....

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