The boxes that fill the hallways and classrooms at Audubon Charter School will now be unpacked as leadership has learned the planned move to the McDonogh 7 building is on hold, due to unforeseen costs and extended timelines for repairs.
Orleans Parish School District Deputy Superintendent Kathy Padian explained at a meeting of Audubon’s governing board Saturday that the removal of lead paint at the Milan Street building will take 10 weeks and will come with a price tag of over $30,000, which requires a 28-day public bid period.
All of that puts an Aug. 14 start to school there out of reach for Audubon students.
Board chair Cornelius Tilton told those present to plan on a mid-year move that will come at a time that will cause the least possible disruption to students.
No firm date has been singled out for when the building will be move-in ready, and Padian said in addition to the issues inside the building, they are running tests on the property’s soil to be extra cautious.
“Without pointing a finger, a lot of assumptions were made because the building was utilized last year,” (by Crocker Arts and Technology) Padian said. “I’m not the person in charge of abatement. I guess we have a higher standard. Everything seemed to be moving along, this was definitely a surprise to me.”
Crocker occupied the McDonogh 7 building at 1111 Milan Street from early 2010 through August 2012. Audubon board member Jacqueline Smith called that “disturbing,” since officials say they now know the potentially dangerous issues there.
Padian listened to emotional remarks and frustration from parents, administrators, teachers, and board members as Audubon’s current site is widely deemed unfit with poor air quality being the most pressing concern.
One mother choked back tears as she described last year being a medical nightmare for her son. She said he had respiratory problems and she had to heavily medicate him just so he could make it through the day in the school’s buildings.
Operations Manager Alisa Dupre noted there have been two sick teachers, possibly due to or made worse by the building’s issues and parents noted that once children are out of the buildings, the respiratory problems subside.
Due to the severity of the issue, an audience member questioned Padian about whether the school would qualify for an emergency waiver to forgo the 28-day public bid period so that work could begin immediately.
Testing and addressing air quality is not currently in the OPSB’s planned improvements, according to Padian, but she said they could look into it. She also said work is beginning this week at the S. Carrollton site to replace roofs, and waterproof the main building.
In other business, the board unanimously approved the school’s $6.9 million 2013-14 budget.
The meeting ran from 10:14 a.m. to 11:29 a.m., with the following board members in attendance, Eva Alito, Derek Bardell, Shawn Barney, Jason Coleman, Jacqueline Smith, Gregory Thompson, and Cornelius Tilton.