What Will Come Of New Orleans' Empty, Damaged School Buildings?
In a recent story, Nola.com / The Times-Picayune education reporter Danielle Dreilinger took a look at the many empty buildings and vacant lots still owned by the Orleans Parish School Board. Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent floods damaged many school properties, though some sat vacant and rotting long before the storm.
A $1.8 billion 2008 facilities plan set out which schools would be used, and which properties sold or otherwise let go over time. Dreilinger says about 40 properties were taken "off the map," but putting them all up for sale at once, a real estate consultant told her, would "flood the market."
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Right now seven school sites are awaiting appraisals to go to market: Alfred C. Priestley High, A.J. Bell Junior High (on pause waiting for asbestos treatment), George O. Mondy Jr. Elementary, L.V. Hansberry Elementary, Louis Armstrong Elementary, Israel Meyer Augustine Middle and Carrollton Courthouse/Audubon Extension.
Dreilinger visited Priestley, at 1619 Leonidas St., along with two charter school operators interested in considering the Pigeon Town building. Charter schools get first shot at public school properties and, says Dreilinger, with few exceptions, are assigned a building by the city or the state. If they want to expand or move to a new location, they must fund that themselves. The consultant for Lycée Français said on the visit it would cost $10 million to rebuild the school.
Dreilinger describes it as a "dank" space, where she found decades-old papers and textbooks strewn around, graffiti from kids who had broken into the site, pools of standing water and smashed linoleum floors.
If no charter schools want to take on the building, it can be bought by private developers. New Orleans schools have been bought and redesigned as residences and museums, among other uses.