Students from Lafayette Academy Charter School finally returned to the classroom Monday, after a botched asbestos cleanup job created a mess at their school this summer. But some parents aren’t happy with the temporary accommodations at the old McDonogh 35 building.
The Orleans Parish School Board and the Choice Foundation, which runs Lafayette Academy, have spent millions of dollars over the last five weeks trying to get the old high school building fit to house Lafayette Academy’s 5th through 8th grade students.
Still, Lafayette Academy parent Sienna Abdulahad was nervous about dropping off her kids at the old McDonogh 35 building.
"We were promised we could do a walkthrough before school started, and we were not given that opportunity. And so our children are going in sight-unseen, which is concerning," she said.
Choice Foundation Executive Director Mickey Landry said the fire marshal wouldn't sign off on allowing parents into the school days before opening, and that parents are invited for a walkthrough Wednesday evening.
WWNO got an impromptu tour from Landry on Monday morning. Inside the building, originially constructed in the early 1970s, Landry pointed out the freshly painted halls, and new HVAC, light fixtures and doors.
"It’s miraculous what OPSB did in five weeks, and the money they spent," Landry said.
But the building still has some issues. A WWNO reporter noted a handful of ceiling tiles were missing, broken, or held up with duct tape. Several windows on the third floor were still boarded with weather-battered plywood, and the tall chainlink fence surrounding the yard was rusted and bent.
Landry says no students are on the third floor yet, and that workers will address those problems. OPSB spokeswoman Dominique Ellis sent the following statement Tuesday morning:
The Orleans Parish School Board’s facility team has successfully completed all construction at the 1331 Kerlerec Street school building, where the Lafayette Academy middle school students are now housed. Crews will continue to make cosmetic repairs and renovations in the upcoming weeks. Abatement of damaged floor tiles that contained asbestos materials have been properly cleaned and repaired. While new doors are being installed, the third floor will remain closed. The district is thankful to all of the construction crews and dozens of volunteers that made this quick turnaround possible.
The OPSB has said previously that the building does have materials that contain asbestos. Experts say asbestos is not harmful until it is disturbed and becomes airborne. The Choice Foundation says air quality testing by OPSB and an independent expert found the school building is safe for students.