Renovations to begin this month on Audubon’s Broadway campus, while Banneker Elementary prepares move to Hollygrove

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Audubon Charter School's Broadway campus.

Renovations on Audubon Charter School’s Broadway campus are scheduled to begin this month, neighbors learned Wednesday night, while Benjamin Banneker prepares to move to a new campus in Hollygrove.

Audubon Charter School moved its classrooms out of the Broadway campus to a temporary location in Gentilly over the winter holidays in anticipation of the renovations. The modular building that were behind the Broadway building have been removed, and renovations should start later this month, said Orleans Parish School Board member Woody Koppel on Wednesday at the spring meeting of the Uptown Triangle Neighborhood Association.

The project is still on track for students to return by fall of 2013, Koppel said, and when they do, they will find one of the best school buildings in the city.

“Everything in that facility will be replaced other than the exterior walls and the hardwood floors,” Koppel said.

Dewayne Wilson, who has been critical of Audubon’s impact on the neighborhood, asked about the status of a traffic study at the school promised during negotiations over the expansion. That study is complete, replied Orleans Parish School Board member Lourdes Moran, and is expected to be presented during today’s OPSB property committee meeting. A community meeting will then be scheduled to share its findings.

“What we promised will happen, I guarantee it,” Moran said.

While Audubon Charter look forward to its return to the neighborhood, Benjamin Banneker Elementary and Middle School is preparing to leave. Recovery School District officials have decided that the Banneker program will move into a new school at the Dunbar site in Hollygrove, and school principal Cheryllyn Branche said she has already begun attending planning meetings for the new facility.

The move is expected to take place in the next two years or so, Branche said, and after that, the current Banneker campus on Burdette may become a “swing space” for other city schools that are receiving renovations. Built in the late 1960s, maintained relatively well since then, and mostly undamaged in the flooding after Hurricane Katrina, the school building should have many more years of service, she said.

The school and the neighborhood have enjoyed a close relationship, Branche noted. On Wednesday night, neighbors praised Branche for her work at the school, and she thanked them for their years of donations and volunteering.

“We as a school will certainly miss this community,” Branche said.

Other highlights from the association’s meeting:

Lt. Col. Mark Jernigan, director of the city’s Department of Public Works, answered residents’ questions about widespread streetlight outages. The city has a backlog of 6,700 broken streetlights — about half have yet to be visited by city workers, who will repair them on the spot if the problem is simple, but 3,200 have been deemed “major maintenance” issues that will require more substantial work. The city tries to reach 150 streetlights a week, Jernigan said, but they are also trying to increase that number.

“We are making progress,” Jernigan said. “If you look at certain areas of the city, you can see the lights coming back on.”

City Councilwoman Susan Guidry agreed that progress on the streetlights needs to speed up. Most of the land-use issues facing the neighborhood lately have been settled, she noted, but one resident asked her about Tulane’s plan to build a new football stadium on its Uptown campus.

The university is within its rights to do so, Guidry said, but the city is urging Tulane to listen to neighbors’ concerns. “I am suggesting strongly to them that they slow down and get more neighborhood input, and at the same time investigating what more we can do,” Guidry says.

NOPD Second District Commander Paul Noel told residents that their neighborhood is one of the safest in the district, and that the investigation into the recent shooting is progressing quickly. In the meantime, he encouraged them to take simple measures to make their property unappealing to criminals — ample outdoor lighting at night, keeping trees and bushes trimmed, and locking the doors. About 75 of cars that are broken into in the Second District were left unlocked, Noel said.

To read our live coverage of Wednesday’s meeting, click in the box below:

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