Lafayette Academy enrollment to be split due to asbestos contamination

Lafayette school concerns

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It was standing room only at the Orleans Parish School Board meeting Thursday, with close to two dozen parents turning out to tell officials their thoughts on asbestos contamination at an Orleans Parish Charter School.

Parents had no problem voicing their concerns to leaders with the Choice Foundation about the discovery of asbestos contamination at Lafayette Academy.

Officials say it happened when the contractor hired by the Recovery School District failed to follow proper protocol for asbestos abatement.

"We have to step up and we have to speak up and we have to do things for our safety of our children and make healthier decisions for our children," said parent Carolendia Bates.

"We have a feeling the kids were there outside of them saying they weren't there," said parent Ashante Keller.

Parents were concerned asbestos had been in the building for years, but officials with the Choice Foundation say it had always been contained. They say renovation began two years ago and air quality monitors never indicated an issue.

"I want to stress, at no time was there any chance of a student or faculty member being exposed to asbestos," Mickey Landry, Executive Director for the Choice Foundation.

Chief Facilities Officer for Recovery School District Ronald Bordelon says RSD inspectors observed the general contractor deviating from the project specifications. He says the contractor they chose was the least expensive.

"Choice foundation was not part of this unfortunate event and certainly neither was the Orleans Parish school Board," said Bordelon.

Bordelon adds the contractor will be held accountable.

Yet, there's something else that doesn't sit right with parent. Now that the building cannot be used until environmental quality officials give the okay, students will be split between two buildings - McDonald 35 and Dunbar.

"The younger ones will be at one place and the older ones will be at another and it's like, okay, who's going to have control of this, how are they going to facilitate them getting back and forth on buses? It's just havoc," explained Ashante Keller.

Officials say there is asbestos contamination in the yard and all three floors. They say all technology must be replaced, including their computer servers.

Landry says they hope to know how pervasive contamination is by next Thursday.

Bordelon says the goal is to get students back into the building this school year.