Baton Rouge, LA: Autism charter school with waiting list; cost: $80,000/child a year

Dec 31, 2017, Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate: Autism school is turning into a charter school, expand services to children with autism in Baton Rouge The tiny private kindergarten Corey and Avery attended at Emerge is about to undergo a significant transformation and expansion. The private school is closing and in August will reopen as The Emerge School for Autism, a public charter school. “We designed it specifically around children with autism,” said Leigh Bozard, the school’s principal. … The private Emerge school charges about $11,000 tuition, though many of its 19 students are receiving private and public assistance. The new public school, by contrast, will be free, ... Charter schools are public schools run privately via charters, or contracts. … Applications for an initial class of 22 to 24 kindergarten-age children are due by Jan. 15 — the deadline was recently extended a month. The school expects to have more applicants than spots and so is planning to hold a lottery in February to determine who is admitted. … Extrapolating from CDC data, Emerge estimates that between 170 and 260 children are born with autism each year in Baton Rouge. … The Emerge private school occupies the western wing of the 26,000-square-foot Emerge Center at 7784 Innovation Drive, which is southeast of LSU near the Gardere area. The complex, which opened in 2014, cost $8.1 million to build and was financed largely through private funds. It is three times the size and serves twice as many kids as the organization’s previous home at 535 W. Roosevelt St., when it was known as the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation. More than a 1,000 children a year receive a variety of services from the center and hundreds more are on waiting lists. These days, the place is filled with offices for audiologists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists, social workers and behavior analysts. It also has a large playground for children in its rear and special spaces such as a sensory gym equipped with special swings, foot bridges and trampolines meant for children with autism. … Emerge’s charter application calls for spending $79,361 per child its first year, declining to $67,198 per child by year seven. The typical Louisiana charter school spends far less, around $10,000 a year per child. … “There’s a waiting list for a lot of places. It’s kind of crazy,” she said. “They say it’s early intervention that makes a difference, but it’s hard to get in.”