Lafayette Academy Closes Building After Inspection Reveals Possible Asbestos Contamination

Jul 20, 2018

New Orleans charter school Lafayette Academy is scrambling to find accommodations for next school year after a state inspection revealed the building and yard may be contaminated with asbestos.

School district officials say a contractor working on the building botched the handling of materials containing asbestos. Airborne asbestos fibers can cause cancer. School officials say the construction started in May after school let out for the summer, and that no students were exposed. But some parents are skeptical. And they’re frustrated with the district’s decision to split Lafayette students between two different schools while the campus gets cleaned up. Some students will attend school at the Paul Dunbar building in Holly Grove, while others will go to the old McDonogh 35 building on Kelerec Street.

Parent Rebecca Simon told the board she’s worried about the logistics of getting her four children to two different schools.

"How am I supposed to get my children uptown and downtown and have them at school at the same time?" she asked the board. "Who’s gonna look after my kids? I don’t trust anything that you guys have told us."

Lafayette Academy has about 1,000 students and is run by the Choice Foundation. Choice Foundation CEO Mickey Landry says the school may need to buy millions of dollars in new materials to replace contaminated computers, books and other equipment. But, he says, they won't know how much they'll need until the state Department of Enviornmental Quality completes testing.

Landry says the school will reopen for the spring semester at the earliest, but that it may stay closed until next fall.