- New Orleans Public Schools officials estimate it will take three to five years and approximately $800 million to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.
- Construction work on 24 schools has already been put out to bid and selected. The schools with more damage will be bid on individual timetables,
- Roughly 60,000 students were enrolled in New Orleans Public Schools before Katrina. Estimates predict somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 students will return this year.
Desks and supplies are strewn through this classroom in Hardin Elementary in the Lower Ninth Ward. Hardin was one of the worst-hit schools in the Orleans Parish School District.
New Orleans Public Schools officials estimate it will take three to five years and approximately $800 million to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.
All of the system’s 124 schools sustained damaged to varying degrees in the storm, said Martin McFarland, managing director for Alvarez and Marsal, the New York-based management firm in charge of the school system.
About $25 million in contracts have been awarded to repair the first wave of schools with initial projects focusing on schools that can be quickly brought back into service.
Construction work on 24 schools has already been put out to bid and selected. The schools with more damage will be bid on individual timetables, said McFarland.
About a quarter of the schools, 32 buildings, sustained minimal damage such as blown out windows and mold growth.
“A lot of them were damaged only because power was off and mold started to grow due to the moisture,” McFarland said.
Approximately 20 Orleans Parish schools have reopened. Ben Franklin Elementary, relatively unscathed, was the first non-charter public school in Orleans Parish to reopen Nov. 28.
Roughly 60,000 students were enrolled in New Orleans Public Schools before Katrina. Estimates predict somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 students will return this year.
A third of the schools, 41 buildings, are classified as badly damaged because they were filled with 4 to 5 feet of floodwater. Another 33 buildings were severely damaged after taking 8 to 10 feet of water. Many of those schools were filled with toxic mud and debris.
The worst damage afflicted the 18 schools in eastern New Orleans, the Ninth Ward and the City Park area. Those buildings are deemed total losses. Many of those buildings are missing walls and roofs.
FEMA has pledged to replace schools deemed “damaged beyond economical repair,” McFarland said.
McFarland says contracts awarded so far have been an even split between local and national companies. New Orleans-area companies working on the projects include NOMAR Construction, Arc Abatement, Crown Roofing and Remediation Experts.
The biggest problem the school system is facing with the rebuilding process is the lack of workers.
“I am shocked at the people who will not bid because they have no subcontractors to get the work done,” McFarland said. “A lot of people are working in Mississippi and Alabama. When they came to Louisiana, they go to Jefferson Parish first. There’s just not enough workers to go around.”
A lot of the schools haven’t begun demolition or removal of damaged drywall and flooring because the system is trying to focus resources where they can have the most effect.
Four months after the storm, crews assessing the damage are still finding dead dogs and other animals inside schools.
“It’s amazing that four months into this these animals are just being discovered,” McFarland said. “I think people in this country don’t know how bad the damage is down here.”
Hardin Elementary in the Lower Ninth Ward was one of the schools hardest hit. Floodwaters floated a car into the middle of one classroom.
Carver High School in eastern New Orleans was especially hard hit. Desks are piled eight high in classrooms filled with massive amounts of growing mold.
The most heavily damaged schools won’t be dealt with yet because there aren’t enough people living near the schools to justify reopening them, McFarland said.
“If they’re repaired depends on if we need them again,” said McFarland.
Contractors interested in bidding on the projects can contact Alvarez and Marsal at www.alvarezandmarsal.com.•