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New campus slated for completion by June 2014, OPSB property chair tells board

The board of Lake Forest Elementary Charter School began its monthly meeting on Nov. 29 with a detailed question and answer session on construction of a new campus.

Ira Thomas, chairman of the Orleans Parish School Board’s property committee, fielded questions about the building design process and clarified  rumors surrounding construction of the new site.

Thomas joked about receiving numerous phone calls from Lake Forest Principal Mardele S. Early and said it became clear to him that he needed to show up and clarify the process.  He confirmed that a new building for Lake Forest will be constructed on land purchased from Greater St. Stephen’s Church.  The school is expected to open in June 2014.

Board members asked Thomas numerous questions about their role in the design process.  While school staff and Lake Forest Board members will have no official input on how their school is designed, they will be free to participate in a series of open community meetings with the architects.  The new community input system developed by the Orleans Parish School Board over the past few years involves a series of public meetings.  Architects will show their work to the community, listen to concerns and suggestions, and come back with new adjusted designs as the plan develops.

“At the other schools, it’s been a really nice process,” added Kenneth Ducote, a facilities consultant advising the board.

Board member Leila Eames asked Thomas about rumors that Orleans Parish School Board members were in talks over constructing a high school facility on the Greater St. Stephen’s property.  “I won’t support it,” Thomas said.  “I can’t control people.  They want to have those conversations?  Fine.  Let them talk, but nothing can proceed without the approval of the Property Committee, which I chair.”

Questions were also raised about conditions of the lease.  Lake Forest will lease the property for free, in exchange for maintaining the building.  The lease would last until the end of Lake Forest’s ten-year charter.

Bernell St. Cyr gave a brief financial update on the school’s roughly $1.5 million budget.  “We did not have any unexpected expenses,” he said.

Principal Early ended the meeting with good news on the school’s academic teams.  “First time out, they knocked it out of the park,” she said, referring to the new debate team, and pointing to a trophy against the wall.  The team, including students in the sixth grade and above, has been at two competitions.  The robotics team will compete at a state tournament on Dec. 10.

The 70-minute meeting was attended by members Windi Brown, Leila Eames, Denise Williams, Gina Dupart, Donald Pate, Brian K. Richburg Sr., and Lee Caston, president.

The meeting adjourned at 2:40 p.m.



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