The city of New Orleans is working to repair school zone warning lights before school starts — but its deadline is fast approaching.

Twice this year, The Lens has surveyed school zone lights in Orleans Parish, finding 87 lights were malfunctioning in January and a slightly improved 78 in May.

The Department of Public Works maintains the flashing lights that caution drivers to reduce their speed to 20 mph for two hours each morning and afternoon on school days.

This summer, department director Mark Jernigan told City Council’s public works committee that the lights would be ready in time for the new school year — a bit of a moving target in New Orleans with schools starting anywhere between July 20 and Aug. 26.

At that same meeting, Jernigan told councilmembers that his department relies on 311, the city’s hotline for residents, to learn which lights are malfunctioning.

City spokesman Brad Howard said repairs are underway.

“DPW is currently finishing up repairs and uploading programming information into each of school zone flashing beacon in preparation for the start of the school year,” Howard said.

On the 4500 block of heavily trafficked Canal Street Wednesday morning, the lights weren’t flashing in front of Pierre Capdau Elementary. The three other lights associated with the school were working properly. Classes began there on Aug. 5.

Neither set of lights on Orleans Avenue in front of Encore Academy in Mid-City were working. They began school Aug. 12.

Howard said the city is completing a laundry list of repairs:

  • Replacing damaged school zone signage
  • Installation of school zone signage at new schools
  • Replacement of some backup power batteries
  • Replacement of some burned-out bulbs
  • Replacement of several time-keeping clocks
  • Inspection of radio transmitter
  • Inspection of radio transmitter repeaters

“The radio transmitter is expected to be operational this week,” Howard said.

It was also expected to be repaired in February.

A repeater on the Danziger Bridge is not functioning. Howard said that repair will require additional parts. Affected lights will be programmed manually, as opposed to remotely, until the repeater is fixed, he said.

“Our goal is to ensure that all school zone flashing beacons will be operational to support the start of the school year,” he said. “DPW staff will be inspecting each location within the next two weeks (based on when school year starts) to verify that they are operational.”

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...