The Orleans Parish School Board’s operations team is recommending $2.3 million in renovations to Audubon Charter School’s Carrollton campus, officials said Saturday. The school board had previously allocated several million dollars for emergency stabilization projects to seven of its campuses. At a recent Orleans Parish School Board committee meeting, the board’s director of operations recommended $2.3 million for Audubon, principal Janice Dupuy said at Audubon’s board meeting Saturday morning. The decision still requires a final vote from the Orleans Parish School Board, but Dupuy said she is optimistic. “We have no reason to believe it’s not going to happen,” Dupuy said.
Audubon Charter School is planning an open house Saturday at its new temporary campus at the old Jean Gordon site in Gentilly, so that parents of current students can get a look at their children’s classrooms before they return to school Monday. Teachers have been unpacking at the new site all week, Audubon operations director Alisa Dupre has said. With their classes now ready, parents are invited to visit the campus and locate their children’s classes Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Gentilly campus, located at 6101 Chatham Drive. School hours will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., a half hour later than the Carrollton campus.
A lawsuit filed this month by neighbors upset over traffic and other issues at Audubon Charter School’s Broadway campus is likely to prevent any permits from being issued to begin renovations there in the immediate future — just as Audubon teachers and staff are moving out of that building into a temporary facility in Gentilly. The lawsuit filed by the Upper Audubon Association and several individual neighbors repeats complaints of traffic congestion, safety hazards and illegal parking that the group has been making for more than a year as the Broadway renovations were planned. The lawsuit contends that, despite promises from school officials that the traffic problems would be handled, “no apparent action was taken to address neighbors’ concerns.” John Lafargue, president of the Upper Audubon Association, declined to discuss the lawsuit in detail, but said that while the neighborhood supports the goals of the school, it wants to ensure that its concerns are addressed. “Our interest is to mitigate the detrimental impact of the school on the surrounding properties, which includes traffic and parking,” Lafargue said.
Audubon Charter School will restore its 3-year-old pre-kindergarten class next year and begin exploring the possibility of opening a new high school, its governing board decided in an eventful meeting Saturday morning. “Among a very large section of the Audubon community, there’s a burning interest in this question,” board vice chair Carlos Zervigon said about the possibility of an Audubon High School. When the board discussed the idea of a high school several years ago, it drew standing-room only crowds to the meetings about it, Zervigon says. The decision at that time was to explore two other options. One was to partner with NOCCA, an idea that didn’t end up working.
Leaders of two French-immersion public charter schools in Uptown New Orleans, Audubon Charter School and Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans, both made efforts this week to dispute allegations that their admissions procedures favor students from wealthy families. The allegations originate in an October report authored by former Orleans Parish schools superintendent Barbara Ferguson and education advocate Karran Harper Royal entitled “The Deception of the ‘Lottery’ at Lycee Francais and Audubon Schools.” The report argues that because both schools offer fee-based pre-kindergarten programs (costing up to $4,570 per child) that provide a pathway into their free public kindergarten classes, the schools are becoming “instruments for educating only a select group of students” and constitute a “misuse of the charter school concept.” Leaders at both Audubon and Lycée Français responded to the accusations this week, each arguing that the report misconstrues their actual admissions procedures and reaffirming their schools’ commitment to serving students at all income levels. Lycée Français
The response by Lycée Français came in the form of two emails addressed to parents Wednesday and Thursday seeking to dispel “false rumors” about the school.
The proposed expansion of Audubon Charter School’s Broadway campus that has split the neighborhood over parking issues won city approval Wednesday, as did a less controversial redevelopment of the old Nine Inch Nails recording studio on Magazine Street. Audubon Charter | While pick-up and drop-off traffic around Audubon Charter remained a central issue for opponents of its expansion, they raised a number of other issues as well. One neighbor said bringing the building so close to Pine Street would create a “cave-like” feeling on the narrow street, while another said windows in the new building will look directly into his bedroom. Another neighbor said the burdens of having the school were unfair to the neighborhood, since Audubon’s lottery-based admission system prevents many children from attending school there. Officials with the project said the portion closest to Pine Street actually have a lower height limit intended emulate the approximate height of the houses across the street, and that the windows will have a similar placement to those in a caretaker’s cottage currently used for kindergarten classes.
KIPP Believe College Prep on South Carrollton is headed to a new school building in Gentilly, and Benjamin Banneker Elementary in the Riverbend is slated for a new campus in Hollygrove, according to school assignment plans being aired publicly by the Recovery School District this week. Those two changes are the most significant for Uptown campuses among the recommendations that the RSD will be hosting public hearings on this week. Many other RSD schools around Uptown will essentially be unaffected, and some of the higher-profile schools run through the Orleans Parish School Board are not included in the list. KIPP’s highest-performing middle school, KIPP Believe College Prep, is slated for the old Stuart Bradley site on Humanity Street just off Interstate 610, where one of the city’s new $22.5 million school buildings will be constructed from FEMA money. The move will leave its current site, the McNair High School campus on the corner of South Carrollton and Birch, as an “opportunity” campus — suitable as a temporary site while another campus is being renovated, but not slated for any renovations or long-term assignments itself.
The planned redevelopment of the former Nine Inch Nails recording studio on Magazine Street and the proposed expansion of Audubon Charter School both return to a city board Wednesday morning seeking waivers required to start their projects. The owners of the old Nothing Studios on Magazine near Jena Street intend to redevelop the property into a combination of the existing residential units, a space for a doctor’s office, and ground-floor retail space. The large building would technically require nearly 60 parking spaces, and the ownership of the lot being proposed to satisfy that requirement caused some consternation for members of the Board of Zoning Adjustments last month. The owners of the building were instructed to meet with the neighborhood a second time before Wednesday’s meeting. Similarly, the firm handling the expansion of Audubon Charter School’s Broadway campus asked last month for more time to meet with neighbors about that project.
Audubon Charter supporters and the Broadway campus’s neighbors generally agree that a renovation of the building is needed, but that school traffic must be better controlled. They disagree, however, on whether a traffic plan must be finalized before the renovation can proceed.