Council members promise action after Lens finds most school lights not working

Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey has vowed to work with the city’s Public Works Department in response to Lens reporting that found nearly half of the school-zone flashing lights in the city are malfunctioning.

As chairwoman of the Public Works, Sanitation and Environment Committee, Ramsey said she will raise the issue at the committee’s next meeting on March 3. The Department of Public Works is responsible for maintaining the lights.

“In the meantime, I am working with the DPW to remedy this situation as quickly as possible,” Ramsey said. “I also look forward to being involved with my colleagues’ efforts to address the safety of our school children as they make their way to and from school.”

Prior to The Lens’s inquiry, Ramsey said her office had received no complaints regarding malfunctioning school-zone lights. She said her office has begun to work with the department.

The Lens found 87 of the city’s 147 school zone lights near open schools weren’t working in an early January survey. That’s about 60 percent.

A second survey later in the month found about 45 percent of the lights weren’t working. A spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the department had fixed between 20 and 30 lights in that time after an uptick in citizen complaints.

Councilwomen Stacy Head and LaToya Cantrell also responded promptly to a Lens email alerting them to our findings. Head asked Ramsey to address the item in the public works committee, and Cantrell said she will bring up the item at a school transportation safety working group on March 5.

But before those meetings occur, Mardi Gras will offer another test for the city’s system.

The blinking lights, which can be controlled remotely and programmed for up to 500 days, will have to accommodate a variety of school calendars over the next two weeks.

Drivers are required by city code to slow to 20 mph in posted school zones from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m — but only on days when school is in session.

Students at Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans are out of school beginning Thursday through Feb. 18. Others, such as those at Firstline Schools’ five campuses, will be out of class Feb. 16 through Feb. 20.

And if the school-zone lights are flashing on the 2500 block of Jackson Avenue on Mardi Gras morning when Zulu rolls at 8 a.m., it’s OK. It’s not a school day and the floats probably won’t be topping 20 mph.

Have you seen malfunctioning school zone lights in your neighborhood? Share your photos with a time and location in the comments or on Twitter with #schoolzones

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About Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

  • Good news. Maybe the Mayor & Council can also ask DPW to stop stealing tourists’ and locals’ vehicles?

  • nickelndime

    IDK – but the 7th District Police (formerly headed by “da chief”) cut the chains and “took” my $5,000 trailer in eastern New Orleans. I guess vacant property is like “catnip” to the NOPD. 02/10/2015 9:10 PM

  • nickelndime

    Some people go to bed. Some people go to work, and some people go to hell. But the rest of us are partying all nite. LET’S GET IT STARTED IN HERE…”we don’t need no education” thank you, police chief Harrison. 02/10/2015 10:42 PM

  • nickelndime

    Super picture, “Thomas…” I sure wish you had gotten one of my trailer. 02/11/2015 6:28 PM

  • nickelndime

    PARADIGM SHIFT: After reading a story tonight (Feb. 12) about how a guy (with a Jamaican accent, going by the nickname of “Lexxie” or “Lexus”) “parked his bike” last week (Feb. 5) and fired a shot into the air outside of a club on Frenchmen Street in the Marigny because he was denied entrance, was posted on Crimestoppers, IT STRUCK ME. The NOPD is not here “to protect and to serve.” To put it quite bluntly, it is they who need OUR help. “SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GUNFIGHTER,” or in this case, SUPPORT Y(OUR) LOCAL POLICE. They ain’t going to make it if we don’t. Smile at them. Tell them hello. Don’t pretend you don’t see them, because you know you do. This story was an AH HA! moment for me, and it changed my perception! 02/12/2015 11:04 PM