Neighborhood residents and Audubon Charter School parents got a first look Tuesday night at plans for the school’s proposed temporary campus in the Lower Garden District and began voicing concerns about the safety of the neighborhood, before a sudden downpour flooded the area and forced an early end to the meeting.
The school is proposed for a vacant lot bounded by Orange, Constance, Annunciation and Richard streets. According to plans shown by project management firm Jacobs/CSRS during a Tuesday evening meeting at the nearby Sixth Baptist Church, the site would essentially comprise three similarly sized buildilngs, a playground and a parking lot. The cafeteria and administrative building would run along Constance, one class building would run along Orange, and the second class building would sit next to the first near the center of the lot.
Engineers are proposing a drive to be added through the center of the lot from Annunciation to Constance, and partially reopening Constance, which is now closed there. Parking would be in a lot near Richard and the playground would be along Annunciation, though when one audience member suggested reconfiguring the site to move the playground closer to other fields nearby, Jules Lagarde of Jacobs/CSRS promised to try that design.
After the plans were introduced, no objections outright to the school were voiced by neighborhood residents, though some offered suggestions about traffic flow and parking issues in the area. Audubon parents, however, expressed some concerns about the safety of the neighborhood. The site is a block away from the River Garden development that replaced the old St. Thomas housing projects, and nearby Felicity Street was the site of a drive-by shooting in February that killed one man and injured four other people in the mid-day crossfire, including a 3-month-old child.
One man who identified himself as an Audubon parent said the uncertainty surrounding the project was causing him to rethink sending his child back to the school. [Editor’s note: UptownMessenger.com does not usually report on unnamed sources, but because the extenuating circumstances of Tuesday night’s street flooding literally ended the meeting so quickly that the man’s name could not be confirmed, we are quoting his comments during the meeting in this instance.]
“What would make this acceptable?” Lagarde asked him.
“The security,” the man replied.
“We’re going to make the security acceptable,” Lagarde assured him.
“Some parents are not going to be willing to say they’re uncomfortable with it, but they’re going to vote with their feet,” the parent replied.
Audubon principal Janice Dupuy said school officials have faith that the Orleans Parish School Board and the project managers find a solution that ensures the students’ safety.
“We know they’re not going to put us at risk. I’m very confident that we’re going to end up with something we can deal with,” Dupuy said. She added, “We treat your children as though they were our children, so we do ask for your trust.”
At another parent’s questioning, Lagarde began explaining the project’s timeline, which will include seeking the city’s permission to use the lot for a school. While Lagarde spoke, however, flooding from Tuesday evening’s storm brought the water so high in Felicity Street outside the church that officials suddenly decided to end the meeting immediately, and the nearly 40 attendees all fled the building at once.
To read a full recap of our live coverage of the meeting, click “replay” in the box below.