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Plessy school gets building ready while planning to move later

The staff and board of Homer A. Plessy Community School are in a final push to get their building ready for this week’s first day of school, and simultaneously making a move that could lead to them moving out.

As the board held its meeting Monday night, the pre-kindergarten through second grade  school was buzzing with student orientation. Currently, 134 students are set to walk through the doors of the Douglass Building, 3820 St. Claude Ave.  on Thursday, Aug. 8, 54 of whom are in pre-kindergarten. The school still has 12 openings — five in first grade, and seven in second grade.

The Orleans Parish School Board charter school is sharing the space with the Recovery School District-run Arise Academy.

Though many preparations were still being made, Head of School Sara Leikin said the space is largely ready.

Leikin and board members described seeing daily progress on the building. Two crews of volunteers on Saturday and Sunday hung doors, painted and installed shelves, and did other prep work in classrooms. From donated rugs to a Rayne friend of a teacher who sent two boxes of books to a neighbor who built four bookshelves, the school has been getting lots of support, Leikin said.

But all was not completely in place as of Monday. Furniture was still on the way for pre-kindergarten classrooms and the literacy center. The building is also missing some water fountains, meaning some classrooms will have to supply water bottles, Leikin said.

The school building will continue to be a work in progress during the year. Crews will be replacing windows in the building, among other work, Leikin said.

“There is ongoing construction in this building,” she said.

There currently is no internet access throughout the building, but one staffer is using her cell phone to let others get on the Web.

“The wiring in this building is iffy and tricky, so we’re going to do the best we can,” Leikin said.

The school, which was formed by a grassroots effort of Marigny, St. Roch, St. Claude and Bywater residents who wanted a dedicated school in the area, is not planning to stay in the space permanently. The current sharing arrangement and the fact that the RSD manages the Douglass building has Plessy looking at its first home as a temporary arrangement, with the St. Claude building likely housing itl for the next two years at most.

Meanwhile, the board continues to look for another home for the school. This week, they will submit a letter of interest to show the OPSB that they are looking into the former Lorraine Hansberry Elementary School at 1300 Clouet St.

Vacant since the storm, OPSB listed the Hansberry building as surplus property, and is looking to auction it off in August. But existing schools get first priority, so a letter of interest from the Plessy board would likely lead the Orleans Parish School Board  to postpone or cancel the auction of the building altogether, according to board president Michael Pizzolatto.

The board has been interested in the property for about five months, but the process of potentially acquiring the former school only started to ramp up recently as information about the auction came down from the Board, Pizzolatto said.

The procedure of bumping the property off the auction block is as new to OPSB as it is to Plessy’s board.

“They haven’t gone through this process,” Pizzolatto said.

The Plessy board also welcomed a new member Monday. Patricia Adams, chief of legal services for Jefferson Parish Public Schools, was elected unanimously. She previously served on the board at Benjamin Franklin High School.

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