Construction at Lusher’s Willow campus delayed by miscommunication

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Construction work at Lusher Charter School’s Willow Street campus will not start this fall as originally planned, school officials said this weekend.

A misunderstanding between Lusher and the Orleans Parish School Board led architects at one meeting to believe that the school was getting just $1.2 million worth of repairs, when in fact the project has a budget closer to $7 million, said Lusher Chief Executive Officer Kathy Riedlinger at a Saturday morning board meeting.

Amongst other issues, architects were under the impression that they were supposed to repair an outdated air conditioning system, Riedlinger said, when the school is actually supposed to get a brand-new system altogether.

The money remains in place and the scope of work is established, but the miscommunication will delay the project being put out to bid, Riedlinger said. Construction is scheduled to begin in earnest at the Freret campus within a few weeks, so leaders are disappointed that the Willow Street work will no longer be on the same schedule, she said.

With work at Willow Street unable to start this fall, it is now also unclear when it will be complete, Riedlinger said. Both Riedlinger and board members expressed frustration at the miscommunication.

“It’s back to the drawing board for the elementary school,” Riedlinger said.

[Update, Nov. 5: An initial version of this article suggested the miscommunication involved contractors for the project. In fact, the project has not been put out to bid, and the misunderstanding involved an old set of architectural plans, said OPSB Deputy Superintendent Kathleen Padian. The project is set to bid at the end of November.]

Also on Saturday, the school’s governing board voted Saturday to elect an executive committee of officers, a group charged with providing guidance to Riedlinger.

The objective of the new committee isn’t for members to make decisions on items that require a full quorum with the board, but rather provide counsel to Riedlinger when she needs a mechanism in place to get things done quickly, said Board President Blaine LeCesne.

For example, LeCesne said that occasionally Riedlinger needs an answer to a question about facilities, or advice regarding the topic, and it would be useful to have a small group of people she could call for help.

“Sometimes these things come up,” LeCesne said, adding that the group should ideally be kept to four officers. “The more people involved, the more unwieldy it becomes, and it defeats the purpose of having a mechanism in place to get things done quickly.”

There are currently 11 board members, which means that six members need to be present for a quorum to take place at any board meeting.

At Saturday morning’s meeting, members voted to elect Richard F. Cortizas to be the executive committee’s at-large member. At the meeting, Cortizas cautiously warned that the committee shouldn’t overstep its boundaries, or try to take the place of the full board.

“We should be careful not to make a decision on something that requires a quorum,” Cortizas reiterated.

The school’s governing board meets monthly on Saturdays at 10 a.m. at the high school campus on Freret Street. The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 25.

One thought on “Construction at Lusher’s Willow campus delayed by miscommunication

  1. The bad communication with the Lusher project extends to the neighbors who have NEVER received the courtesy of ANY communication.

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