|The LPSS Facilities and Maintenance Department has binders full of correspondence with architects, engineers and contractors on water issues in the schools.|
|Photo by Robin May|
|Live Oak Elementary|
| Photo by Robin May
|N.P. Moss Middle was shut down for half a school year
in 2008 due to mold and water infiltration.
|Photo by Robin May
A recent report on Live Oak Elementary from the school’s architect, Allen Bacque, and its consulting engineer, Jay Breaux, mentions the vinyl wall covering and goes on to admonish the school system on maintenance issues: “We feel that the issue here is that with often delayed maintenance on things such as filter changes, equipment adjustments, calibration of the thermostats and leaving the kitchen hoods on for much too long, that an excess of moisture is being pulled through the walls by negative pressure in the building.” In their conclusion, Bacque and Breaux recommend establishing temperature controls for the building and training programs for janitorial staff.
Billeaud concurs that ventilation maintenance appears to be an issue with many of the new schools, and new buildings in general. “The objective today is to build a sealed envelope on a building and to make it air-tight,” he says. “The fact that we’re building them tighter and tighter, it requires you to be more accountable for every little nick-nack on the building. The science of constructing and operating a building today has changed drastically due to these factors, and I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing more of these problems today.”
To several school board members, the issues of maintenance and vinyl wall coverings seem like convenient excuses for architects and contractors to be raising now, and those members also point to evidence of other problems, such as the apparent improper installation of window units at Burke Elementary.
“[Vinyl wall coverings] have been raised as an issue at this point,” says board President Carl LaCombe, who was also serving on the board at the time the schools were built. “I don’t ever recall it being an issue back then.”
Answers may not really become clear until Wynn White issues its final report on the schools, which is not due out until next May. Superintendent Lemoine says the school system will be evaluating all its policies as information continues to come to light.
“Right now we are currently looking at maintenance and facilities and hired a firm to do all these assessments,” he says. “I’m sure a great deal of discussion will follow regarding some of the issues that we’ve had to face and so in subsequent years, whatever it is that we do, certainly that should be taken into consideration.”
“I have really tried my very, very best,” he continues. “As the issues evolve, we try to take care of them. We brought a policy before the board that whenever there’s any kind of [remediation] work that’s being done, we inform the parents immediately, so that everybody’s informed. I certainly will continue doing that.”
That’s little consolation for board members like Hefner, those with long memories who never expected to have to deal with so many issues with some of the school system’s most modern facilities.
“Hindsight’s 20/20,” he says. “There’s some things that probably should have been caught way back when and for whatever reason they weren’t. I really don’t know. I just know that we should not be having these issues with these new facilities.”
School N.P. Moss Charles M. Burke Live Oak Ernest Gallet J.W. James
Completion July 15, 1999 Aug. 4, 1999 Aug. 7, 1999 Aug. 17, 1999 July 30, 2002
Architect Corne-Lemaire Poche Prouet MBSB Group Architects SW MBSB Group
Contractor Ratcliff Woodrow Wilson Lemoine Rudick Rudick
Construction Construction Company Company Company
Cost to fix $2 million $900,000* $900,000* $110,000 $1.1 million*
*cost estimates provided to school system by Wynn White Consulting
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