Audubon parents voice safety concerns at proposed Lower Garden District campus

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This site plan shows a possible layout of the proposed temporary campus for Audubon Charter School in the Lower Garden District. (Courtesy Jacobs/CSRS; click to enlarge)

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: 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.

8 thoughts on “Audubon parents voice safety concerns at proposed Lower Garden District campus

  1. The park adjacent to the proposed location of Audubon Charter School is loaded with toxins and is currently closed to the public. The site for the school should be tested for as many toxins as possible and remediated if necessary before placement of the portables. If this is not possible the school should be relocated to a safe site.

    Mary Ann Wingard

    • Mary Ann,

      Thanks for your comment. I just got off the phone with Jules Lagarde, and he said he has yet to see the results of the soil testing today but reiterated that a any remediation plan necessary will be developed publicly. He also noted last night that they have hired the same scientists to test the soil that discovered the contamination at Annunciation Park, so they are aware of the issues there.

      (As an aside, he said the type of contamination on the proposed school site will be directly related to the method that was used to demolish the old houses that used to be there years ago. If they were dismantled and hauled off, the contamination may be low, but if they were burned on the site, then the chemicals may be a more serious problem.)

      Thanks again for your thoughts. We’ll publish the results of the soil testing as soon as we receive them.

  2. My son goes to school about 3 blocks away. I bike him through river gardens and right past this site every morning and many afternoons. We’ve never had a problem. It is a lovely neighborhood filled with families and kids.

  3. You may want to consider one of our garden systems to add a bit of green to the campus. Our systems can be built on blacktop/cement and since they sit on the surface, can be moved to the permanent campus once it is in place. We also use raised beds and bring in healthy soil so there is no issue regarding the native soil.

    We built a garden at Langston Hughes Academy in New Orleans if you want to see what our garden system looks like in person.

  4. As a neighbor who could not attend due to the flooding, I am in objection to the increased traffic load at he Richard/Annunciation intersection. It is already known to contribute to accidents with serious injury, and a four way stop would be absolutely vital there. The movie studio has provided off street parking, but vehicles entering/exiting their lot just 30 yards from the school’s off loading in the middle of the block on Annunciation would be absolutely insane. We are also in opposition to the use of a gravel parking lot as proposed by CSRS/Jacobs. This is not legal and it is a direct contributing factor to the flooding that ended the meeting with the public. We already have two gravel parking lots that have blocked more than 50% of the culverts on the block. Please also consider St. Michael’s traffic load just one block away and how this is already a contributing factor to the vehicular issues in the area.

    In terms of safety, yes, we have many families in the neighborhood and I raise my sone on the block, but we do have frequent shootings within a vicinity that would cause a lockdown of this school every two to four weeks. I do not think that is acceptable, but that is why I pay for my son to go to a private school uptown. If these parents want to whine about safety in my neighborhood, then stay uptown. I could do without the additional trouble, and having grown up uptown, I frankly moved here to get away from the attitude of entitlement that is pervasive uptown. My neighbors are good people, even is some of them are poor as dirt.

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