International School questions pace, scope of upcoming Camp Street renovations


The International School of Louisiana'a Camp Street campus.

The International School of Louisiana’a Camp Street campus.

A renovation project designed to seal the International School of Louisiana building on Camp Street from water intrusion and remove lead paint from its windows has yet to begin months behind schedule, and school officials are unsure whether the current plans preserve the historic nature of the building or when they will even begin.

The renovation project is being coordinated by the Recovery School District and includes replacing the roof, repairing cracks in the outside walls and repairing or replacing the windows and doors to seal the building from water intrusion during rainstorms, among other items, said Aviva Le, the facilities director at the International School. During heavy rains, Le has to set up “irrigation systems” in certain classrooms to control the water coming in, she said.

When the project will actually begin, however, is an open question. At a meeting with construction representatives in April, the International School was given a timeline that called for a contractor to be chosen over the summer, construction to begin in September and for the work to be complete by spring of 2014. Instead, the bids were all rejected as too expensive and the process of starting over will take months before construction starts, Le told the school’s governing board in a meeting Wednesday evening.

“I have no definitive answer,” Le said.

Temporary patching can be seen on long cracks on a courtyard wall at the International School of Louisiana's Camp Street campus Wednesday night. (Robert Morris,

Temporary patching can be seen on long cracks on a courtyard wall at the International School of Louisiana’s Camp Street campus Wednesday night. (Robert Morris,

In addition to the ongoing damage from the water intrusion, the delay is causing other issues at the Camp Street building as well. For example, another major item in the project is the replacement of two air-conditioning chillers on the roof of the building, and the need to leave a path open for the crane to install them has prevented the school from completing covered walkways to its new modular buildings. Utility bills are also high because the air leaks outside through the warped windows and doors, she said.

The school is expected to remain open during construction, but will close two classrooms at a time while the windows are worked on. The windows themselves could be a major sticking point as the project proceeds, however.

The current recommendation is to replace the wooden windows with aluminum windows, but neighbors around Coliseum Square and preservationists are opposed to that approach, said board member Andrew Yon. Yon asked Le if she had a preference on replacement versus restoration of the windows, and she said supports the course that will stop the water intrusion as quickly as possible.

“I do not care how you fix it, quite frankly,” Le said. “This has been a continuous problem, and it has just grown bigger and bigger.”

Board member Mike Lappa and others suggested that solving the problem should be the school’s only consideration. Yon said he simply wants more information on the two options, and that if the time and cost difference is not high, he would support restoring the windows in keeping with the historic neighborhood.

“In this city, preservation and restoration is a social good,” Yon said. He later added, “The cheapest and quickest alternative is not necessarily the best.”

Le said she would find out when the city’s Historic District Landmarks Commission expects to discuss the project, so the board will know how much time it has to voice an opinion on the issue.

The Recovery School District has not responded to requests for comment on the issue from Uptown Messenger.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the school leaders also discussed ISL’s new ‘A’ rating from the state, and plans for a better system of measuring students’ academic growth. To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below.

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