Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy. Credit: Dominic Scott / The Lens

The bathrooms are working again at Edgar P. Harney elementary school following a sewer line repair Thursday, after severe weather had kept Orleans Parish school district officials busy coordinating bathroom use for students at the Central City school.

“All restrooms are fixed,” district spokeswoman Ambria Washington wrote in an email Thursday evening. “We are leaving the portables [toilets] on campus until Monday as a precaution.”

Repairs were already in progress on Wednesday. Crews were digging up the front lawn, and the school was supposed to limit bathroom use and had a portable toilet trailer outside.

But heavy rains and severe weather alerts Thursday prompted the district to move the “festival-style” trailer bathrooms closer to the school and hire a contractor to install a covered walkway from the building to the trailer, Washington wrote.

“Several central office staff members are onsite to manage the logistics of the rearrangement and facilitate bathroom usage,” she wrote Thursday.

“Our School Support team worked [Thursday] morning to arrange the first floor classrooms to provide access to those bathrooms for the entire school, given the weather.”

Parents were frustrated Wednesday because they said the district had not told alerted them to the bathroom problems. The district contacted parents Thursday morning via a pre-recorded message, Washington wrote.

Harney was formerly run by the Spirit of Excellence charter group. But the district took over in January after repeatedly citing the school over financial management problems, concerns over special education services, and improperly withholding employees’ retirement contributions. The district plans to close Harney at the end of this school year.

The bathroom issue started around March 11, Washington wrote.

“OPSB was notified of an issue with malfunctioning toilets at Harney Elementary School and OPSB called a contractor to the school who unclogged the sewer line. Approximately two weeks later, OPSB received another report from school administrators about additional sewer problems at the school.” An inspection revealed a break in the sewer line, she wrote.

The problem was fixed with a few days to spare before state standardized testing is set to begin at the school. Harney students will begin testing on Monday.

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...