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The vacant Valena Jones school building in New Orleans is one of several properties the Orleans Parish district is looking to sell.

Orleans Parish (La.) board wants to unload 12 vacant properties

The properties, mostly vacant buildings or lots, are deemed too small or no longer suitable to serve as school facilities.

The Orleans Parish (La.) School Board has unanimously approved a facilities plan that calls for selling or trading a dozen district properties throughout the city of New Orleans.

Nola.com reports that the district's Public Schools Facility Plan has three categories: properties it wants to eventually unload, ones it wants to hold onto for future use, and ones it wants to set aside and keep empty to use when regular buildings need repairs, or in case of emergencies.

To divest itself of an unused property, the board first will have to vote to put it on the surplus list, setting off a series of events before the property can be considered for public sale.

After being deemed surplus, the buildings are offered to charter school operators and then to other government agencies for possible property trades. If no charter or agency wants a property, it can be sold through public auction.

Tiffany Delcour, the chief operations officer for the school district, has said that by selling unneeded property, the district can get money to reinvest in buildings that are better for students. The money generated from any sales would be used for future repairs and building replacements.

The district estimates it costs $350,000 per year for minimal maintenance on the 12 properties it wants to trade or sell.

Pastor Brenda Square, a board member of the Plessy and Ferguson Foundation, was the lone member of the public to comment before the board vote. She asked the district to hold onto the Valena C. Jones Elementary School building and transfer it to Rooted School, a charter high school that opened in 2017 and aims to prepare students for both college and careers in New Orleans' technological industries.

Square says the Jones building has been honored as a historical landmark for its role as one of the city’s first public elementary schools for African-American children when it opened in 1929.

"Why are we pushing this effort? Jones was a center of academic excellence," Square said. "Jones School is also a sacred legacy, a gift to neighborhood children."

But as with many of the properties the board wants to divest, the district considers the 2.2-acre site either too small or in too poor shape to keep.

Modern schools, officials say, should be a minimum of 3.5 acres and should not cost more to repair than it would to build a new school.

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