Thursday, November 06, 2008

School Facilities Master Plan Vote Tonight!!!

Go to McDonogh 35 High School at 1331 Kerelec St. at 5:00 PM sharp!

Here's a map!

View Larger Map

As briefly as I can, here's what's happening:

After the original master plan document released by the RSD encountered a diverse opposition from expected and unexpected quarters, they modified it in order to quell some of the more organized opposition groups. Some of the compromises they made are extremely important to me and I can't pretend not to be pretty happy about them:

- Carver High School is now getting a new building on site during phase 1
- Frederick Douglass, Samuel Green, O.P. Walker, and Walter Cohen High Schools will not close until 2016, giving those schools some breathing room to institute classroom stability and to coalesce an active academic community.
-Eleanor McMain, housed in my favorite building in the city, have effectively organized a renovation.

Yet, I'm still convinced that this plan falls short of our city's needs. The Cowen Institute and the Bureau for Governmental Research explained their criticisms of the master plan as resulting from the lack of funding secured beyond phase 1 of the effort. Without a concrete path to funding the rest of the plan, New Orleans could be left with extremely unequal educational facilities. Given the financial crisis and the threat of recession, there is good reason to be cautious about our prospects for funding future phases of the plan.

And here's what is meant when we talk about unequal facilities:

This is from the OPSB's own release touting the modified plan, which I've made available here.

...Phase One building program will now include 32 schools and will make it possible for nearly 60% of public school students to be in newly built or completely renovated school buildings by 2014.

That means that just over 40% of public school students will remain in inadequate dilapidated buildings or modular FEMA units a decade after Katrina.

For me, that is unacceptable.

I'd like to have a deadline for all of our public school students to be in permanent facilities and concrete funds to get there.

That might mean scaling back the district's plan for Barbie Dream Schools and instead more prudently allocating funds on targeted renovations for places like Douglass, Cohen, Rabouin, and O.P. Walker - getting our kids into stable, adequate, permanent buildings and investing our time and energy into what really matters: the classroom itself.

I think Phase 1 should accomplish those basics. Future unfunded phases should outline our greatest dreams for modern expansions, state of the art dream technology, and so on. If the RSD can rework their master plan to do this, I'll be happy to support it.

Tonight unfortunately, I expect an unanimous and unimaginative OPSB vote in favor of the master plan. We'll see.


Francine Stock said...

I agree that since only the first phase is funded, it should seek to include all students not just 60%. Terribly unfair.

Sustainability needs to be stressed. Adapting designs to reuse the original concrete, brick and steel structures. Most of these buildings are victims of neglect. They need a serious gutting, upgraded infrastructure and new surfaces and fixtures.

The plan does not properly identify the fate of the buildings to be "landbanked."

I wish I could go, but I would have to bring my 3 year old. If you do go the meeting, please get there early enough to sign in to make a public comment.

E said...

There isn't a more appropriate public meeting to drag your child to than one determining the future of your city's public education system.