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Audubon waiting to learn extent of Broadway campus construction problems

Audubon Charter School officials expect to learn soon what will be required to fix structural problems recently discovered at a building under construction at its Broadway campus.

In late January, Orleans Parish School Board officials announced that students will be stuck in modulars at the old Jean Gordon Elementary School in Gentilly for another year or longer because of construction problems.

The building’s steel frame was erected improperly, causing parts of the structure to buckle and slope, OPSB interim Superintendent Stan Smith said in January.

To fix the problem, the Orleans Parish School Board asked the contractor to partially demolish the exterior of the building. At first, the contractor wasn’t responsive, officials said, opting to open holes in the brickwork rather than expose all of the steel beams.

During Saturday’s meeting of the board that oversees Audubon, however, chairman Rev. Cornelius Tilton announced that the demolition was “95 percent complete” as of last week.

After the demolition is done, architects and engineers will report their findings to school officials and recommend a fix, Tilton said.

By this week, “we’ll have a better sense of what’s going on there,” Tilton said.

The board also voted to hire a new Mandarin teacher as part of a partnership with Xavier University’s Confucius Institute.

Audubon will pay no more than $2,000 a year for the service, as the teacher’s salary is mostly funded by the government of China, according to Yu Jiang, the director of the institute.

Audubon Principal Janice Dupuy strongly encouraged board members to accept the partnership and fund the Chinese teacher. She explained that the school currently has one Mandarin teacher whose salary is funded by a special grant, but the teacher was only allowed to stay for one year.

By participating in the Xavier program, Audubon will be able to offer Mandarin at both campuses, Dupuy said. The school’s French program requires a third language, which makes the partnership “very compatible” with the school’s curriculum.

The partnership will begin in the 2014-15 school year, and the instructor will stay for two to five years, according to Tilton.

Tilton also said that the school would have to start paying its two French teachers out of its own funds. Previously, the French government sponsored the teachers as part of Audubon’s curriculum, he said.

Aside from Tilton, board members Derek D. Bardell, Jean Claude Brunet, Gregory Thompson, Eva Alito and Jacqueline Smith were present at the meeting, which lasted a little more than an hour.

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About Della Hasselle

Della Hasselle, a freelance journalist and producer, reports environmental and criminal justice stories for The Lens. A graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Hasselle lived in New York for 10 years. While up north, she produced and anchored news segments, wrote feature stories and reported breaking news for, a hyperlocal news site. Before that, she worked at the New York Daily News. She obtained her master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She can be reached at (917) 304-6121.

  • nickelndime

    AUDUBON construction problems?!! Are you kidding me? That can be fixed and/or litigated. However, I have fallen off of my chair and am rolling around on the floor about the Mandarin teacher funded by the Chinese government. Pick any 10 items (excuse me – 1000 items) in your home right now. Made in C—-. Now, somebody is extremely smart or extremely dumb, and I am moving my funds offshore as we speak – oh, okay – you caught me – they are already there. Janice will do anything, say anything (although she did express her concerns about serving alcohol on campus for fundraisers – somebody get me a drink, please!) to keep her salary at Audubon and maintain the lifestyle to which she (and her family) have become accustomed. Janice is like the female version of Patrick Dobard – pleasant, soft-spoken, attractive, non-aggressive…Janice has been around for quite some time, and in this game longevity matters. Integrity doesn’t. Janice is the perfect CEO for a school like Audubon – but, that really is part of the problem – selective admission, multi-language…requirements…, isn’t it?