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International School faces opposition in building-renovation plan

The International School of Louisiana continues to face building issues.

At the Wednesday meeting of the school’s board of directors, members talked about space restrictions and a lack of control over the repairs at the Camp Street campus.

A plan to replace the school’s 300 wood window frames with aluminum frames as part of a FEMA renovation project appears to still be on track, said Aviva Le, the school’s director of facilities. Despite talks with Recovery School District representatives, Le has not received any new information about the project.

The Recovery School District and FEMA have not invited the International School of Louisiana to help with the planning, Le said.

“We really do not have any input,” she said.

The project was originally slated for this fall, but no bid was chosen because they were all overpriced. The Recovery School District is currently rewriting the project and hopes to have it done by the end of December, Le said. This could open the project for bids in mid-January, which would then take an additional 100 days before a decision is made.

Replacing the wood frames with aluminum would be cheaper, said board member Andrew Yon, but the Coliseum Square Association and the Historic District Landmarks Commission are advocating for restoring the windows.

The school is in the Lower Garden Historic District, and because of that, it would have to apply for HDLC approval for any work  to the exterior of the school building.

“I do not care how you fix it, quite frankly, because this has been a continuous problem,” Le said about the windows, in addition to other problems such as leaks in the roof and cracks in the walls. “I have been at ISL since 2007, and this has been happening since that time, and it’s just grown bigger and bigger.”

Both restoration and replacement would cause multiple classrooms to be inoperable at a given time as workers treat the window frames for asbestos. However, restoration would take longer, Le said.

Yon suggested the board write a letter to the Recovery School District recommending the method that is best for the school. If the school’s staff has no preference either way, the school still might want to support restoring the windows because “we exist in a historic neighborhood,” he said.

Other members expressed unease over voicing such an opinion because the school’s mission is to educate its students, not to preserve its neighborhood.

Board president Matthew Amoss said he will send a letter supporting whichever option is in the school’s best interest, based on the staff’s examination. If either option is viable, he would want to write in support of restoration.

Head of School Sean Wilson said there continues to be progress in acquiring a vacant lot across Terpsichore Street for student play space. The lot’s owners have verbally agreed to the lease, Wilson said, though the school will not begin paying until the city approves the space.

In Wilson’s presentation to the board, he said the new facilities plan is still progressing as scheduled. The report will be ready for the board by Dec. 20, and discussed at the Jan. 22 meeting.

After an hour, board members went into an executive session with Wilson to discuss his performance review. The session was scheduled to last 40 minutes, but adjourned after one hour and 15 minutes.

The next board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 1400 Camp St.

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