Dec 302011
 

Audubon Charter School's Broadway campus.

A lawsuit filed this month by neighbors upset over traffic and other issues at Audubon Charter School’s Broadway campus is likely to prevent any permits from being issued to begin renovations there in the immediate future — just as Audubon teachers and staff are moving out of that building into a temporary facility in Gentilly.

The lawsuit filed by the Upper Audubon Association and several individual neighbors repeats complaints of traffic congestion, safety hazards and illegal parking that the group has been making for more than a year as the Broadway renovations were planned. The lawsuit contends that, despite promises from school officials that the traffic problems would be handled, “no apparent action was taken to address neighbors’ concerns.”

John Lafargue, president of the Upper Audubon Association, declined to discuss the lawsuit in detail, but said that while the neighborhood supports the goals of the school, it wants to ensure that its concerns are addressed.

“Our interest is to mitigate the detrimental impact of the school on the surrounding properties, which includes traffic and parking,” Lafargue said. “We’re not interested in shutting down the school.”

Neighbors aired those concerns most recently at a meeting of the Board of Zoning Adjustments in November, but the board ruled in favor of the school, granting it permission to extend the building closer to Pine Street. The neighborhood association appealed the decision to Civil District Court in a lawsuit filed Dec. 16, and when an appeal is filed, the city’s Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance requires that the Department of Safety and Permits refrain from taking any action, such as issuing a permit.

How the lawsuit will affect the timeline for the school’s renovation is unclear. The renovation project has yet to be put out to be bid, and the bid process can take several months, potentially leaving some time for attorneys to resolve the lawsuit before building permits are needed. In fact, the lawsuit only names city entities as defendants — not Audubon Charter School or the Orleans Parish School Board — so school officials were not even aware the suit had been filed, said Audubon Charter’s operations manager, Alisa Dupre.

School leaders and faculty finished moving out of the Broadway campus on Friday, and will begin unpacking at the temporary location at the former Jean Gordon site (6101 Chatham Drive in Gentilly) next week, Dupre said.

“We’re still proceeding as normal,” Dupre said.

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  • Audubon Parent

    Why the rush to move children, teachers, administration out to Gentilly if they haven’t even put the renovation out to bid or applied for permits? Can you please investigate the contract with the provider of the temporary campus in Gentilly? This stinks.

    • Audubon Neighbor and Parent

      I mean, to address our concerns, they should have set up a professional car pool line on Broadway, similar to Stewart Hall on Carrollton. Instead, they are spending time on planning a high school, as stated in their last Board meeting, and now to find out, they have not even put this project out to bid or obtained permits. Seriously??? Why in the world are they disrupting 3 year olds to 3rd graders in the middle of the school year? Some of the little guys are just getting settled in their classes and friendships and now being uprooted. Not to mention the parents who have kids at both campusus, at least had this happened at the end of the year, they would have the option and/or oportunity to withdraw and find another school. Where is the motto here, “Children’s best interest first?” How many years will Audubon be in the temporary location now? More than the planned 2 years, I am sure. This is a joke, who is running this school? Good thing we will have other options in the very near future with Lycee Francais in you are in the French school at Audubon. I heard they (Lycee) are accepting applications for all grades to gather information for the demand to potentially add higher elementary grades. Possibly even as soon as next year.(see earlier article on their Board meeting yesterday) Article states, that they could in theory handle through 5th grade at the new location, St. Feancis of Assisi. Let’s go, apply now. And I’ll bet Lusher will have more applications this year as well from Audubon families.

      • ACS Parent

        Par for the course. Audubon has been mismanaged for years. This is yet another example.

        • Nola 99percenter

          Well yes, you will have an option of the Lycee – you should leave now if Audubon is so bad. Audubon did not have anything to say about the move dates if you went to the meetings. OPSB owns the building and the swing space. The move was delayed because some of the parents did not want to move to Kingsley House – and it was not really about lead paint. You people are unbelievable! If you hate Audubon so much go to another school.

          • Another Audubon Parent

            You mean to tell me that there are no construction contracts or permits??!! They are moving these children and putting families through the hardship of traveling to two different campuses so far away without even putting out public bids? I was under the impression that the crews were coming in and the work would begin immediately. I want to know who made this decision?
            @Nola 99percenter: you must be a member of the administration or FAME, as this is the standard answer given to parents who have a valid complaint. And you are correct, it wasn’t about lead paint. If you went to the meetings you’d know that the DEQ expert stated that the lead levels in the soil were the highest he had ever seen in his career.

  • Librarienne

    Will UTNA (the neighborhood assn for the Black Pearl) be joining in on the lawsuit? Geographically speaking, it seems they have a bigger dog in this fight.

    • Phil Vanderyken

      I live in the black Pearl and I’m sorry to say, UTNA does not represent the neighborhood. They claim they do, but they don’t. They only represent a fraction of area homeowners although they have no qualms speaking ‘on behalf’ of the Black Pearl.

  • Lisa Marie

    Why did they buy a house in close proximity to a school if they don’t like school traffic and school kids?

  • Rachel Watts

    While I am frustrated that we are moving before work could begin I am wondering if there is a good reason for this. We certainly either needed to move now or wait until the summer and the money being used for this renovation is going to expire soon if we don’t use it. I certainly don’t know why one would say “friendships are being uprooted” if the whole school is moving. We have discussed the idea of a carpool line and, personally, I think that would be a worse option because it would probably back up traffic on Broadway. Carrollton is a bit wider than Broadway and even so, I know I avoid Carrollton during Stewart Hall’s drop off and pick up times. I really think the neighborhood is just holding the school hostage. There is little that can be done to alleviate their problems and they did buy a house near a school. And it is totally untrue that nothing has been done to address their issues. There have been parents patrolling the area during drop off and pick up and a uniformed crossing guard who is also rather vigilant at confronting those people he can see who are parking illegally.

    • Audubon Parent of 3

      Rachel, if there are no bids out and no permits obtained, the money is still not being used and may run out. Just because they are in the temporary facility, does not mean the FEMA funds are remaining available. This really has nothing to do with the neighbor’s law suit, bottom line is, the rennovation is not happening until the bids are in and the contracts are signed, the permits are approved, and the contractors are ready to roll, etc… We as parents did not know that the work was not ready to start this week. This could take months, and as someone above said, “Some of the little guys are just getting settled in their classes and friendships and now being uprooted.” well, stated in the last Board meeting, “Over the holiday break, lower-grade teachers and staff will be moving out of the Broadway campus into the new temporary campus in Gentilly, said operations manager Alisa Dupre. The school’s enrollment is actually 28 students lower than they had expected at the beginning of the year, in part because of no-shows and parents who decided they did not want to go to the Gentilly campus, Dupre said, so some vacancies are expected to open up in pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade. Parents who might be interested in a mid-year transfer to Audubon are encouraged to call starting Jan. 17, to give the staff time to determine what enrollment will be at the new campus, Dupre said.”

      They are loosing children and if the “whole school” is not moving, as Ms. Dupre stated they are down about 28 children, their “friendships are being uprooted”. If I could get mine in another school (EB, Lycee or Lusher), I would do so. Audubon seems to be the only school with vacancies mid year. Had they stayed put until the end of the year this may not be the case.

  • Audubon Parent of 3

    I am shocked and appalled that Audubon Charter School has moved our children to Gentilly without this rennovation even being bid out or permits filed. What person in their right mind did this toour kids. As a parent, we thought we were moving because on January 2nd, the crew was coming in. We could be finishing this year at Broadway and be better prepared for next year. This hardship is costly for those of us who have children at both campusus and cannot afford the bus service that the PTO is offering at $125 per child per month. This service also does not have adult supervision unless you pay for that as well. Let’s see how many of us are putting our 3 -6 year old on that bus? I hope that more of you are as upset as I am. When asked about the school paying for transportation, Ms. Dupuy said we offer bus tokens. Ok, my 4 year old on a public bus? These leaders are insane.

  • Nola 99percenter

    I am not a member of the Administration or FAME Board, but a parent at the school. I attended all of the community meetings about the renovation, not just the ones that were related to Audubon and held at Audubon. I attended the Master Plan Committee meetings.

    The posts seem to blame Audubon and its administration for moving mid-year and not having the bids and permits issued for construction. The project is not being paid for or managed by Audubon or the FAME Board. The renovation project is being managed by OPSB and the Project managers, Jacobs I think. The responsibility for getting the bids completed and the project started is theirs, and theirs alone. They are the people who told Audubon that we would have to move mid-year.

    Also, if you bothered to attend the school board meetings or master plan committee meetings, you would know that the funds have been allocated for Audubon’s project. You would also know that the neighbors were always going to appeal this decision. One of the neighbors said they wanted the students to enter on Broadway even in the rain in spite of the fact that the school board is building covered walkways on the sides of the building. You guys should really attend the meetings so that your facts are correct because you have lots of information wrong.

    The delay may or may not affect construction start dates. The neighbors with all of their money, and disdain for a public school in their neighborhood is the problem. There was a police officer and many parents outside helping with traffic and it worked. If this was Stuart Hall the neighbors would not have an issue. The parents who park in people’s driveways should have their cars ticketed or towed, but I don’t think the administration at Audubon can do that, can they?

  • Molly Sullivan

    Where are people getting the idea that there are no permits? Permits have been in place for some time. Neighbors complained to the BZA at the meeting in November, the BZA granted the variance that allows work to proceed anyway. The neighbors filed suit because that’s the next step they can take after being over ruled by the BZA. Having a suit filed does not automatically mean anything to the project. They’d have to get a judge to issue an injunction to stop the work, and at this point there is nothing to indicate that will happen.

    I don’t know anything about the contractors, I agree that transportation to the swing space should have been better planned, and I hope that the renovation project will include a plan to address traffic around the school. That said, there is no need to get worked up now by rumors and speculation.

  • Jolynn

    Audubon charter school is an A plus school with a proven record. A school does not achieve that level of success with mismanagement. I have been a parent at Audubon since 2003, prior to the Charter. The school was revitalized by the current administration. I am proud to have my children at ACS and happy to have played a very small part (as a supportive parent) in the success of an inclusive, successful charter school. This too will pass, because the goal is good and the players are honest.

  • JJT

    I disenrolled my child from the french program at Audubon and moved her to LFNO in Sept 2011 for this very reason. NO ONE (in an administrative capacity) appears to be forward thinking…which is very unfortunate because the teachers my daugter had at Audubon were FABULOUS!

    I also have a child at Holy Name of Jesus and a third at Rayne. If you have ever seen HNJ’s carpool, you know that it takes about 7 administrators and 20+ teachers to orchestrate, but they are able to move 500+ kids out of that building, in a congested uptown area, in about 20 minutes every day. If Audubon wanted to find a solution to their traffic/congestion, they surely could have by now.

    Parents of french students at Audubon who are unhappy, I can only encourage you to apply to LFNO. This is small, but very engaged board and administration who have an energy and passion I feel so fortunate to have been connected with. In a very short period of time, they have accomplished much and have a clear vision for their future.

  • kally

    Why are all the complainers French school kid’s parents? this seem like deliberate sabotage to me.

    • Another Audubon Parent

      Kally, I think you are on to something. Obviously, these hardworking taxpaying parents are secretly attempting to ‘sabotage’ an elementary school. I hope you’ve notified the FBI, CIA or KGB. This criminal behavior must be stopped.

  • Evelyn

    JTT. It’s funny that you mention “vision”. I seem to recall an initiative that current board members of Lycee attempted to initiate at Audubon called One Vision One Voice which attempted to divide the school on to separate campuses along curriculum lines. That ” vision” seemed like a “vision of segregation” to me. This is not energy or passion or a vision I would want for my child…” But recruit away….

  • John Schackai

    There are three things that we should do about these issues.

    First, we must change the BZA into an agency that has professional people on its board. This means that the board would have to be composed of attorneys, city planners, real estate professionals, architects, and engineers. Perhaps nominees could come from recommendations from each of the Universities.

    Second, we must have either the City Charter changed or the State Legislation changed (I’m not sure which set up the BZA), so an appeal can be filed with the City Council. The issues before the BZA are zoning so they should be heard by the bodies that created the document and approved it, not an agency outside the purview of the Council

    Third, there has been great success in resolving neighborhood zoning issues along Carrollton Avenue, such as Walgreens, Robérts, Chase Bank, Take 5, and more. There is a Design Review Committee that is composed of representatives from each Carrollton neighborhood organization that touches Carrollton Ave. from the River to City Park. The committee is currently working with COSTCO at the site at Carrollton and Palmetto as well as the developers of the Winn Dixie market development at Carrollton and Bienville.

    Recommendations made by the committee to the Councilmember of the district, Susan Guidry (who represents 98% of Carrollton Ave.), incorporated the ideas into provisos that had to be satisfied in order for the developer to receive a building permit.

    This process and a neighborhood design review committee must be incorporated into the zoning ordinance. The Carrollton Design Review Committee has been successful because the council member in essence said, you all come to a consensus or else…(I don’t know what “or else” mean but it’s all working). All of this should be part of the neighborhood involvement process.

  • Rose

    Can it be a coincidence that such concern comes primarily from a handful of French parents? Or that the resolution is LFNO? Curious. I’d agree that if those parents came to a board meeting or 2, they’d realize just how misinformed they are. As a parent (who attends meetings), it is clear that much thought went into these decisions. None were haphazardly made. Also, I’d put an A+ program against a new and untested product any day.

    • Audubon Parent of 3

      Rose, the French Curriculum is not an untested product. It has been a national curriculum working in France for many, many, many years. Lycee just happens to be a new school offering this very tested curriculum. Be sure to follow the new Core curriculum in the upcoming years, the state of LA is joining forces with this new curriculum, there are at least 45 other states on board as well, says something for a somewhat National Curriculum, eh? Be careful, the Core Curriculum is not in full force yet, be sure to stay on top of this untested curriculum. Although I am sure it will allign with the French one.

  • Audubon Parent

    Definitely agree that there should be more actual input from the community on the design of the renovation and its impact on neighborhood. I have only seen what appear to be rough massing studies of the addition to the Pine Street side of campus. And I am under-impressed to put it mildly. The adjacent neighbors (and the broader community of New Orleanians who appreciate the architecture of our neighborhoods) have reason to be concerned. Jacobs/CSRS are not from New Orleans and don’t seem to understand our neighborhoods cannot handle the heft of their programming on our older urban campuses with our modest streets and lack of off-street parking.

    Likewise distressed that a lawsuit could put our children in a trailer-park-campus without a playground 10 miles away for even longer. We are likewise investigating other options.