Tuesday, May 01, 2007

New Orleans School Construction Partnerships Announced

-- PressZoom

BATON ROUGE, La. -- In an effort to speed the rehabilitation, repair and construction of schools in the Recovery School District of New Orleans, State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek has assembled several high level teams with the sole mission of quickly delivering schools in Orleans Parish.

"As I have begun to wrap my arms around all of the challenges the Recovery School District faces in trying to rebuild a devastated school system, it's become very clear that the RSD needs additional, highly skilled manpower to accomplish its mission," said Pastorek.

Pastorek outlined several areas of need for facilities, including two critical areas:

Timely delivery of the buildings for August 2007

Timely processing of claims to pay for the damages schools suffered as a result of the hurricanes. To meet these challenges, Pastorek invited educators, engineering companies, consultants, state officials and top leadership from FEMA, the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness ( GOHSEP ), the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the Office of Community Development, the Louisiana National Guard and New Orleans Public Schools to participate in a two-day planning meeting held Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28, 2007. The meeting focused on the ability of the RSD to repair and build the number of schools necessary to educate the large numbers of children who continue to return to New Orleans and how to fund those projects.

"As a result of our intensive meeting, FEMA and GOHSEP have volunteered to assign personnel to a team designed to process claims better, getting money to the RSD as quickly as possible," said Pastorek. "This is a major milestone in my opinion and marks significant progress in meeting the challenges we have yet to overcome. We not only have the beginning of a plan for our schools, but we also are finally getting the human capital and expertise needed to get us there successfully," Pastorek stressed.

FEMA Louisiana Transitional Recovery Office Director Jim Stark said he was pleased with the thorough examination of all the challenges facing RSD infrastructure recovery and pledged that his staff remains committed to finding innovative legal ways to maximize FEMA funding for school buildings and their contents in New Orleans .

"I am convinced the partnerships renewed this weekend between the State, RSD and FEMA will result in helping bring Orleans Parish schools back as quickly as they can be delivered," said Stark. "We are committed to the success of the recovery of New Orleans public schools."

"We know that ensuring classroom space in New Orleans is a major priority in the rebuilding process," said the State Coordinating Officer for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Colonel Tom Kirkpatrick. "We look forward to this partnership and are encouraged by its development."

In addition to the commitment of assistance from FEMA and GOHSEP, Pastorek also secured the participation of the Louisiana National Guard to focus on engineering, architecture and construction management. With the support and approval of General Bennett Landreneau and General Hunt Downer, Colonel Doug Mouton has become a special advisor to Pastorek regarding all efforts to get RSD schools back on line. Col. Mouton returned from Afghanistan after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to participate in the state's recovery efforts. Col. Mouton organized the two-day planning meeting for the Recovery School District .

Additionally, at the direction of General Landreneau, seven reservists from the Louisiana National Guard were called up April 24, 2007, to be led by Major Rodney Painting. Major Painting will support the RSD as the Acting Facilities Director in an effort to deliver the necessary classroom space needed for children returning home this fall. Major Painting also served in Afghanistan and is currently a teacher and coach at Kentwood High School .

"The citizens of New Orleans owe a debt of gratitude to the Louisiana National Guard and its leadership, particularly Gen. Landreneau, Gen. Downer, Col. Mouton and Maj. Painting," Pastorek said.

The Recovery School District currently oversees 39 schools, including 22 RSD-operated schools and 17 charter schools, serving a total of approximately 17,600 children. The RSD anticipates an additional 9,000-13,000 children returning to the city for school in the fall.

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

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