Westlake 'voucher' school not licensed to operate

Eternity Christian Academy

Four schools in southwest Louisiana say they will accept vouchers for the 2012-2013 school year.

One school is Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake. But until recently, city officials didn't know it  existed.

Eternity Christian Academy applied for over one hundred vouchers for the coming school year, but Westlake city officials say the school does not have an occupational license, which is required to operate.

"They are advertising that they are a private school," said Lonnie Smart, Westlake Administrative Assistant. "However they don't have an occupational license in the city."

Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake is gathering attention as it advertises on its sign and through handouts. The school claims to be accepting vouchers next year, but Smart says the city didn't even know the school existed.

"The fact that they've reportedly been in business since 2010 is something that we had not known," said Smart.

He says because the school will be accepting money from the public and is not a declared non-profit organization, the license is required.

"Where the occupational license is concerned, the fire marshal has to approve that facility for what it's intended for," said Smart. "The health department has to approve of their lunch program."

Nicholas Bolt, with the Department of Education, says all schools that applied for vouchers are approved, but only temporarily.

"At this point schools have been initially approved just based on the law," said Bolt.

The temporary approval is to see how much interest is generated in each school.

"The law does also call on the department of education to develop additional criteria for participation, along with accountability," said Bolt. "We're working on that as quickly as possible and hoping to release that very soon."

That criteria from the State Department of Education will include a site visit, a review of the staff in place and any additional staff for the coming year and a review of the curriculum or educational plan that the school plans to use.

"We are in that process right now," said Bolt. "Eternity Christian is on the list of schools that will receive a site visit."

Bolt says the Department of Education will conduct all investigations prior to the start of the school year.

KPLC did attempt to reach Marie Carrier with Eternity Christian Academy, but our call was not returned.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.