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Crescent City officials frustrated by building issues

The elevator is finally working at Akili Academy.

The school’s courtyard is finished. And after spotty performance, the air conditioning is fixed, meaning that educators have removed the box fans that had been cooling several of the classrooms.

Those repairs and completions – which Crescent City Schools officials say should have taken place long before the start of school – have brought some measure of satisfaction for school officials, but the lengthy renovation process still frustrates them.

At their first meeting in the newly-renovated William Frantz Elementary, which houses Akili, board members toured the school and discussed its changes, other facilities news and network-wide goals for the year.

Though some problems have been remedied, the building has yet to be finished – issues that Chief Operating Officer Chris Hines calls “cosmetic” have still not been resolved. When the school’s projects are stalled, or when things break, “it’s not always clear to us…who’s fault that is,” he said.

Jacobs/CSRS is the program manager tasked with managing the nearly $2 billion school construction projects under the city’s school facilities master plan, but The Lathan Company, Inc. is the main contractor for the Frantz building.

Board members wondered if there was anything more to be done to speed things along. “We at least need to be part of the conversation,” board vice-chairman Coleman Ridley said.

Chief Executive Officer Kate Mehok said that she and Hines have had meetings with Jacobs/CSRS and RSD. Although school started Aug. 19 for Akili, Crescent City doesn’t have to pay utility bills until the contractor has substantially completed its work on the building. Akili’s construction hasn’t yet reached that point, Hines said.

Examining the contract between RSD and The Lathan Company would give Crescent City a better understanding of what and when things are supposed to be done, board president JP Hymel added.

In other facilities news, architects have begun designing the new Harriet Tubman Charter School.

“That’s been exciting,” Hines said. The architect on that project, Scariono Martinez Architects, is “really committed to making the renovation of the building fit the design” of Tubman’s program, he said.

Crescent City wants to put in more restrooms and expand the cafeteria, so that for the first time, Tubman will be able to use its cafeteria to hold events, or have physical education classes.

While the Tubman building on General Meyer Avenue is being renovated, its students will move into the O. Perry Walker High School building down the street, where Hines said they’ll stay for more than two years.  Walker was merged with L.B. Landry this year, and the combined school occupies the Landry site.

Walker’s former health clinic will be Crescent City’s offices. Crescent City also is  thinking about adding a sidewalk and fencing in a play area.

Architects also will soon start designing the new Paul Habans Elementary school building. Crescent City will remain in the current Paul Habans Charter School for about three years, Hines said.

Network goals for the year include an increase in students who pass state standardized tests, that 80 percent of all students will end the year on grade level or will grow one-and-a-half years in reading, and that all schools average at least 95 percent daily attendance rate.

Board members Hymel, Ridley, Bob Stefani, Carolyn Chandler, Tim Bryant and Anna Burrell were present, as were CEO Mehok and COO Hines.

The board’s next meeting is Oct. 23, 2013, at 6 p.m. at Tubman.

 

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