Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Orleans Public Schools Comment Period

The New Orleans Public Schools (NOPS) have publicized their Master Plan for Orleans Parish, that includes draconian measures to rejuvenate the metropolitan school system. Their reconfiguration is based on extensive information-gathering: building assessments and standards, educational program requirements, and population projections. All of their studies are available as downloads, though the process requires a considerable amount of patience.

In 2000, the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated the nation's historic neighborhood schools as notably endangered places. The trust followed with a grant-funded publication written by Constance E. Beaumont and Elizabeth G. Pianca, titled Why Johnny Can't Walk to School: Historic Neighborhood Schools in the Age of Sprawl. Among many other issues, Beaumont and Pianca addressed the deferred maintenance problems that have certainly been the bane of Orleans Parish schools.

When New Orleans architects E.A. Christy and Charles Colbert designed and supervised school projects for Orleans Parish, they did so with utopian sensibilities about the role of education in an urban society. Over the course of time, accelerated by neglect, their buildings decayed. Tulane School of Architecture Visual Resources Curator Francine Stock has spent considerable time researching and chronicling many of these historic schools, and some of her work may be found on her regional modernism blog and related flickr archive.

The National Trust's recommendation for such properties is in stark contrast to the parish master plan:

"[The Trust] advocates for the continued use of older and historic neighborhood schools as an anchor for healthy communities. We seek not only to reaffirm the contribution made by historic neighborhood schools to their communities, but also to provide policy direction for state policy makers and for community preservation advocates who help shape state policies."

It additionally offers resources for those communities interested in "Smart Growth Schools," sustainability, continuity, and renovation. Click here to learn more and read about communities that have succeeded in their school preservation efforts.

Update: On 6 November 2008, the Orleans Parish School Board voted 6-1 to adopt the $2 billion Master Plan.

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