BATON ROUGE – Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater announced today that lawsuits filed by the Orleans Parish School Board have jeopardized a plan to preserve and relocate the McDonogh No. 11 School in New Orleans.
In March, the State of Louisiana offered to use project funds originally set aside for acquiring and demolishing the McDonogh No. 11 School in New Orleans to potentially move the structure off of the site of the new University Medical Center, preserving the building because of its historic significance.
In a March 17 letter to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and City Council President Arnie Fielkow, the State requested that the City donate a nearby parcel of land, the former site of the Crime Lab for the City of New Orleans, to the Orleans Parish School Board, which owns the McDonogh No. 11 School.
Given the City Council’s publicly stated support for preserving McDonogh No. 11, the State approached the Council and City Administration with the idea of the City providing that site to the Orleans Parish School Board free of charge to relocate the school. The City accepted this proposal with the indication that it would provide this site for the school. As part of the plan, the State was then prepared to use $3 million in existing project dollars, which otherwise would have been used to acquire and demolish the school, to move McDonogh No. 11 onto the new piece of property, with the Orleans Parish School Board retaining ownership of the facility.
The State also made inquiries with the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding the possibility of funds to rehabilitate the school in its proposed new location to provide Americans with Disabilities Act compliant features such as accessible restrooms and elevators, and it was discovered that funds could be available to for this purpose.
While these plans were being developed and discussed, however, the Orleans Parish School Board instead insisted that the State proceed with the original plan of using project funds to pay just compensation for the building to the school board, and subsequently filed suit seeking damages against the state for not expropriating the property.
Commissioner Rainwater said: “We made an extraordinary effort to pursue this plan with the understanding that there was consensus of support for preserving the school, but unfortunately the school board’s actions make plain that that’s clearly not the case. The school board knows full well that pressing for expropriation means exhausting the same pool of funds that could be used to relocate and preserve the school. But in the end, we cannot force the school board to preserve a school that it no longer wants.”
As a result of these developments, the State is now exploring the possibility of preserving architectural features of McDonogh No. 11 School through a process called “deconstruction,” which differs from demolition in that the structure is taken apart, with key architectural features preserved for future use in other structures in New Orleans.