Alex Lafargue and his nine-year-old son, Alongkoin, attend a meeting of the Erase the Board coalition. Alex brought his son to many meetings for months as he tried to fight to keep the third-grader's school, Nelson Elementary opne.
Class Dismissed: OneApp

Parents anxiously await New Orleans’ enrollment lottery results from the time they submit applications in late February to mid-April, when the mysterious algorithm that controls every child’s school placement spits out answers.

“It doesn’t allow for hopes to be brought about in a timely way,” parent Alex Lafargue said.

His son attends Medard Nelson Elementary School, one of five schools that the Orleans Parish school district decided to close this spring.

One of Lafargue’s top priorities for a new school for his son was the length of its remaining charter contract. In most cases, including Nelson’s, the Orleans Parish school district waits until a school’s final year in its multi-year agreement to make a closure decision. Each of the schools on his list has at least 4 years left on its contract.

Lafargue said he doesn’t want his third-grader to have to switch schools again.

“I’ve specifically looked for schools that had three or four years,” Lafargue said.

Corps finalizing Industrial Canal lock study as some residents brace for disruption

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is winding up a three-year study phase of its plan to replace the Industrial Canal Lock, located just north of the St. Claude Avenue Bridge. While the study won’t end until December, the Corps already believes its tentative selection for replacing the lock is the best in a narrow range of options for easing inland waterborne traffic. But some New Orleans residents say they’re outraged that the Corps is still considering the project, which has been planned for decades.

They’re pushing to have the lock moved out of the Industrial Canal in the heavily-populated 9th Ward and rebuilt somewhere else, citing the huge traffic problems and flood risk such a project could cause in the area.

Construction on such a replacement lock could take 13 years — or much longer, opponents warn.

Hunger strikes at ICE detention centers spread as parole, bond denied

In the last week of March, dozens of asylum seekers held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the River Correctional Center in Ferriday, Louisiana initiated a hunger strike. Activists said 150 people joined in the demonstration, while ICE put the number at 24.

It was a short lived demonstration, ending on March 30, according to ICE. But it was at least the sixth hunger strike at a detention center the first three months of 2019 alone.

“We have never seen so many hunger strikes in so many different places in less than three, four months,” said Maru Mora Villalpando, an immigrants rights activist based in Washington state. “And the ones we have been able to engage with have been led by asylum seekers.”

Behind The Lens episode 28: ‘Conversations that must be had’

This week on Behind The Lens, New Orleans parents submitted their applications for the school enrollment lottery between late February and the middle of this month. Now, they’re waiting for the algorithm that controls every child’s school placement to put out results. Marta Jewson reports on OneApp, the latest in her “Class Dismissed” series on education in New Orleans.

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority heard presentations Wednesday from two firms competing for a contract to run the operations and maintenance of the public transit system. Michael Isaac Stein was there.

And, producer Tom Wright interviews New Orleans author Nathaniel Rich about his latest book, “Losing Earth: A Recent History”.

District releases Plessy School’s lead test results

Lead levels in the drinking water at Homer A. Plessy Community School are within federal guidelines and near undetectable with newly installed filters, Orleans Parish school district officials announced Wednesday.

The district tested the water with and without the newly installed filtration system. Without the filters, three fountains had trace levels of lead that fell below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold of 15 parts per billion, but above the level recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics of 1 ppb.

The results came three weeks after a 7th-grader’s off-the-shelf water test prompted the district to shut off the school’s drinking fountains and bring in bottled water.

Scant public details on the proposals from two firms vying for RTA contract

On Wednesday, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority heard presentations from the two firms competing for a contract to run the operations and maintenance of the public transit system — France-based Transdev and Dallas-based MV Transportation.

Transdev is currently on contract with the RTA and has run practically every facet of public transportation in Orleans Parish since 2009. It was paid $80 million in 2017, according to a study commissioned by the RTA last year. But even if the RTA chooses Transdev, the company’s role will be significantly rolled back.

The Opinion Section:

Soros accepts Ridenhour Prize for Courage in an age of lies

Rep. Richmond should co-sponsor the Medicare for All Act

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.