Public School Properties, New Orleans, Louisinana: Advisory Services Panel

PublicSchools_NOLADate: February 17 – 19, 2009

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Sponsor: The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), the Recovery School District of Louisiana (RSD) and the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding

Chair: Marilee A. Utter

Subject Area: Disaster Relief

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The Panel’s Assignment

The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), in partnership with the Recovery School District of Louisiana (RSD) and the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding, invited a ULI Advisory Services Panel to recommend strategies for redeveloping former school properties throughout Orleans Parish. The panel’s briefing materials identified at least 51 unused school properties throughout New Orleans, 46 of which are land-banked and five declared surplus.

The OPSB wants to create the best learning environment possible for the 21st century as it recovers from Hurricane Katrina. To this end, the board partnered with the RSD to complete a comprehensive master plan for 122 school campuses, known as the School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish. Katrina-related damage to school properties exceeds $1 billion and affects more than 90 percent of the system’s 8.6 million square feet in 300 buildings.

The master plan seeks to create a community supported, implementable, long-term capital improvement strategy for educational facilities that coordinates with ongoing parishwide planning efforts. The planning process included assessment of deferred maintenance and storm damage, survey and inventory of existing space, funding strategies, and facilities master planning for the entire system.

The master plan also seeks to rightsize the school facilities to match current and projected enrollment. School enrollment in Orleans Parish peaked at over 110,000 in 1970. Before the 2005 storm, the Orleans Parish School Board operated 127 public schools that enrolled over 65,000 students. Today, 29 different operators run 89 public schools in New Orleans that enroll 35,000 students. At present, 57 percent of students attend charter schools, most located in facilities provided by the school system.

With less than half of its prestorm enrollment, New Orleans’s public school system is struggling to support the facilities it owns that no longer serve active educational purposes. Maintaining and carrying these properties is very expensive for the school districts. In addition, vacant properties amount to significant lost tax revenue and also raise consternation from neighborhood residents frustrated by the blighted condition of the properties.

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