Rumblings emerged several weeks ago, but on Thursday, at a preservation event, things became a bit more clear.
The Orleans Parish School Board is currently fighting the state, legally, over the amount of compensation proposed for McDonogh No. 11 School in the LSU Footprint.
According to OPSB officials, the state is apparently offering or valuing the building at $2 million, but the state is seeking replacement cost - the cost to building another school - because it was a public facility. OPSB says the replacment cost is $26-$30 million. Just a slight difference. A total of approximately $7 million was spent renovating the 1879 school building in the preceding decade - $3 million prior to the storm and $4 million after.
It does not appear that OPSB is looking to retain the school on into the future or prevent demolition; it is simply seeking what it feels is just compensation for the property in the path of the proposed hospital. As you likely recall, the students of what was Priestley Charter School were forced out of the school over the holidays and are now attending modular units out on Almonaster Avenue. A major New Orleans law firm has been retained by the OPSB, although the building had not technically been expropriated as of last Thursday evening. Despite that fact, the state's contractors were onhand as Cox cut various lines going to the school building some weeks ago.
I do not claim to be an expert in the nuances of Louisiana's law regarding eminent domain by one public entity against another. But one figure close to the story noted on Thursday that the fact that the state was expropriating a public building mean that the legal uncertainties could result in "OPSB simply expropriating it back" - which sounded pretty interesting. I am not aware of OPSB's expropriation powers - or if it has "quick take" authority like the LSU Board of Supervisors, the entity expropriating properties in the Footprint.
I also learned that the School Board intends to give the stone marker above the door at McDonogh No. 11 to the city's firefighters - it commemorates the death of two firefighters who died in the line of duty fighting the blaze that destroyed the Madison School, an earlier building on the site.