By Jessica Williams, The Lens staff writer |

City officials were quick to announce the sale of Jo Ellen Smith hospital to the Algiers community at a public meeting last week – but the Orleans Parish School Board says it hasn’t quite made the deal yet.

Councilwoman Kristin Giselson Palmer told a crowd at the Behrman Center on Wednesday that the board bought the old mental-health facility on Gen. Meyer Avenue, with the intention of turning it into a school.

“The Orleans Parish School Board just recently purchased that property,” Palmer said after prodding by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “The plan is actually to build another school there. Right now they are using it as a transitional space.”

Initially, the site would be the temporary home of any school undergoing a major renovation that requires it to leave its home site.

But a School Board representative said Friday that the deal is still being worked out.

“It’s not finalized,” OPSB chief financial officer Stan Smith said. “We have permission from our board to enter into negotiations on that. There are actually two different owners of the property that we have to negotiate with.”

In May, the board approved nearly $7 million for modular classrooms for both Audubon Charter School and Alice Harte Charter School while the schools received building renovations. Audubon is set to move to the old Jean Gordon elementary site in Gentilly by this winter, and students at Harte started school at the Jo Ellen Smith site parking lot this month. Smith said the board is leasing the lot.

The board is also negotiating to buy a school site owned by Greater St. Stephen church on Lake Forest Boulevard in eastern New Orleans, but these talks haven’t been finalized either, Smith said.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her...