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Dream of a new school on hold; questionable utility bills and end of free rent add to woes

Robert Moton Charter School looks likely to stay put for the foreseable future, on the campus of the former St. James Major parochial school on Gentilly Boulevard.

Though the school’s leased premises need repair and a search has been ongoing for a permanent site, Moton board member were annoyed to learn at their April 21 monthly meeting that Moton was not included on an Orleans Parish School Board list of schools in need of new buildings.

At the April 21 board meeting, Moton principal Paulette Bruno handed out copies of an extensive list of repairs she submitted to OPSB to be completed before school reopens July 18. Problems range from broken air-conditioning in the cafeteria to exposed wires.

The building’s lease holds the tenant responsible, but as the lease is between the school system and the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, the board believes Moton should not have to pay for problems that existed before Moton moved in. Bruno also complained that the school system is storing a lot of furniture in space that could house additional kindergarten, first- and second-grade classes.

A recent spate of big bills also drew the board’s attention, including an extra $1,000-plus for electricity to an on-site convent that Moton claims not to use. The board paid the bill but feels it should be reimbursed by OPSB or whoever is using the convent.

OPSB has also sent Moton an Entergy invoice from its former leased site, St. Paul the Apostle. Moton had long since moved out by Jan. 30, the date of the invoice. Moton also is questioning a recently received water bill for $420. Public schools ordinarily don’t pay water bills.

Adding to the school’s financial burdens, Moton will be expected to pay its own rent starting in 2013, when FEMA stops covering this post-Katrina expense.

The weight of all these problems prompted board president Victor Gordon to declare, “We need to own a property!”

Board member Barbara Major griped that new buildings are going to new schools. “The good buildings are all taken before they are even built,” Major said.

Present for the meeting in addition to Gordon and Major were secretary Velta Sims, treasurer Frank Williams and parent liaison Brian Richburg.

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