Since Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent Recovery School District (RSD) takeover of the majority of the city's public schools, officials have struggled to open enough education facilities to accommodate the children whose families have returned to New Orleans.
What was lacking was a vision for the future of public schools in the city, a master plan that would determine which school sites should be reopened, which should be sold and how to proceed. That will change starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, with the first public meeting regarding a master plan for Orleans Parish public schools.
Currently, RSD and the Orleans Parish School Board are conducting a comprehensive assessment of all existing public school buildings. Constance Caruso, a facility planner for RSD, says the master plan has to consider the assessment as well as a number of other issues, including neighborhood demographics and the condition of school buildings.
'Some of our present-day school buildings are over 120 years in existence," Caruso says. 'Some may have value as a teaching center, others for investment purposes and still others must be considered in rational, reasonable terms. What we are about is a positive direction for the schools of the future."
The meeting will be held at Cohen Senior High School (3520 Dryades St.) and will give the public a chance to get involved in the planning process. RSD officials will conduct the meeting along with representatives from the planning and construction management firm Parsons Corp. and the architecture and planning firm Concordia LLC, the two companies charged with developing the Orleans Parish School Facilities Master Plan.
The meeting is intended as an introduction to the planning process and will cover the following:
What the process involves,
What some of the plan's objectives are,
How the public can participate,
A schedule of future meetings.
The Nov. 10 gathering will be the first of five citywide meetings, and school officials request that any parents and friends of public schools become involved and attend the session. After Mardi Gras 2008, more than a dozen meetings will be held in various neighborhoods across the city in order to focus on specific area schools. Officials hope to have the master plan completed in the spring of 2008.