Audubon Charter School has indefinitely postponed the renovations of its Broadway Street campus after its plan to use a lead-saturated site in the Lower Garden District for a temporary campus was deemed “unacceptable” by state officials, the school announced late Wednesday.
According to an announcement emailed from Orleans Parish School Board at 4:40 p.m. Wednesday:
After failed attempts to arrive at an acceptable mitigation plan with the LA Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), the Orleans Parish School Board announced today that it will postpone its Audubon Charter renovation project until further notice.
Audubon Charter was scheduled for a two-year comprehensive renovation at its Broadway school in accordance with the School Facilities Master Plan. In order to accommodate the school, the School Board had arranged for a replacement site, known as a swing site, in the Lower Garden District on the block bounded by Richard, Constance, Orange and Annunciation Streets.
The Annunciation site was selected after an exhaustive search for space in the Uptown area. Because of soil contamination that was previously mitigated at nearby Annunciation playground, the School Board ordered soil samples as part of its due diligence. When that study indicated significant levels of lead in the soil, the Board took steps to outline a mitigation plan, developed by noted scientist, Dr. C. Paul Lo, who has experience in the area. Following a meeting of Audubon parents on May 25, concerned parents contacted LDEQ, which in turn called for meetings and communication that resulted in suspension of the project.
School Board President Lourdes Moran said student safety is her highest priority. “Unfortunately, LDEQ’s recommendation would not allow the charter operator to meet its projected August opening. Therefore, it made the project impossible to begin at this time. The School Board will review its process for all projects scheduled for Orleans Parish. We will continue to identify a suitable location that is safe for our school children.”
The School Board will continue to search for sites in other areas of Orleans Parish, such as Algiers and eastern New Orleans, for possible swing site uses.
The school’s plan to use the Lower Garden District site and the remediation it proposed drew the concerned attention of state officials last week. State Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans), chair of the Senate Environvmental Quality Committee, and officials from the state Department of Environmental Quality questioned school officials about their plans in a June 7 meeting, which is available online (begins at the 21-minute mark).
For more details and reactions from parents, see this report from our partners at WWL-TV: