NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - An elementary school that’s been vacant for years is an eyesore and a safety hazard for many in the area. The Oretha Castle Haley Elementary School sits at the busy North Robertson-North Claiborne intersection.
Vacant since Katrina, the old school building stands covered in graffiti with needles sprinkling the sidewalks. Surrounding homeowners say they’ve grown accustomed to keeping a wary eye on the property for suspicious activity.
Larry is a homeowner near the school. He didn’t want to give his last name but says he sees suspicious activity outside the school almost daily.
“They’re coming out there with a propane tank, you understand, and its 99 degrees, so I know you’re not keeping warm in there, so I know what you’re doing,” he said.
Since we started working on this story, the owner put signs on the fence to keep trespassers out. But in a day’s time, most of them have been pulled down.
The school has changed hands a few times since it was vacated. The Orleans Parish School Board auctioned it off, and it one set of owners wanted to demolish it and build a strip mall.
Danielle Del Sol, executive director at the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, protested that plan and considers the old school an historic building.
“There’s thousands of alumni who went to this school. It’s rough, but it’s still in pretty good shape. It’s really solid. The roof is beautiful with Spanish tile,” said Del Sol.
Since then, the school has changed hands again, and the City Council approved the new developers' plan to transform the building within historical parameters into affordable housing for senior citizens.
“It’s really exciting to see that catalytic impact that one restoration can do…The sooner this gets renovated, the sooner this is no longer a liability for the community,” said Del Sol.
The current developers say they’re working to secure financing and hope to begin soon.