Two charter schools in New Orleans will spend 2019-2020 in temporary facilities as multimillion-dollar asbestos remediation stretches into another school year.
The Lens reports that the schools — Lafayette Academy and Rosenwald Collegiate Academy — had previously been expected to move into their permanent buildings this fall.
In a lawsuit filed by the Orleans Parish School District, it says it has spent $5 million as a result of contractors’ mismanagement at Lafayette Academy’s building, which was closed last summer because of an asbestos release. The Choice Foundation, which runs Lafayette charter school and is a co-plaintiff in the suit. says it has spent $1.3 million replacing contaminated property.
After the asbestos release was made public last summer, the district moved some students into the old McDonogh 35 building. That move was briefly delayed after contractors working to prepare the former high school for Lafayette also uncovered asbestos problems. That asbestos release was cleaned up in August.
Lafayette was part of the state-run Recovery School District when construction began in spring 2018. In the lawsuit, Choice contends that the Recovery District and its contractors withheld for a year a Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality report about asbestos problems at the school.
The Rosenwald Collegiate Academy building, which the school has never occupied, is undergoing a $1.3 million asbestos cleanup. The Collegiate Academies charter group discovered the problem last year before it began moving the new school’s freshman class into the building — former home of Julius Rosenwald Elementary.
It’s not clear why the remediation is taking so long. But Choice CEO James Fulton has confirmed that Lafayette students will spend at least another year at a temporary campus as cleanup at the school continues. He says he’s skeptical that the work will be complete by summer 2020.
“The latest tentative move-in date provided to us by [the Recovery District] is July 1, 2020,” Fulton says. “Given my extensive experience with construction projects, this date is likely [too] aggressive.”
At the Julius Rosenwald Elementary building, asbestos cleanup began this spring, nearly a year after the problem was discovered. But with the addition of a sophomore class, Rosenwald Collegiate has outgrown its temporary campus at the old Habans school
The students will move to William J. Fischer Elementary School for the 2019-2020 school year.
The Rosenwald school, like Lafayette Academy, is one of dozens of buildings that transferred from the control of the Recovery School District back to the local school district in 2018.