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New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward fights to rebuild schools

By Jacob Flom

Community rally in New Orleans.

New Orleans, LA – Community members rallied in front of the closed Louis Armstrong School in the Lower Ninth Ward here, Nov. 10, to save the building from being sold by the Orleans Parish School Board. The event was organized by A Community Voice, a group of community members who want to see the Orleans Parish rebuild and invest in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Years after Hurricane Katrina, the Louis Armstrong School still sits vacant and barricaded on St. Claude Avenue. “We’ve been fighting for seven years now, and we’re not gonna give up on this fight!” said Vanessa Gueringer, a representative of A Community Voice. Signs on the school entrance demanded “Rebuild now,” “No bulldozing,” and “Not for Ssle.”

The New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) was tasked with rebuilding schools. It promised $39 million to build a new high school in the Lower Ninth Ward. Years later, the proposed location for that school near Andry Street and Florida Avenue still sits vacant. Armstrong School is just one of many schools across New Orleans whose existence has been threatened by the RSD, which has sold many public schools and handed public education over to private charter institutions.

Outside Armstrong High School, community members handed out fliers reading, “The RSD has said they will not rebuild an elementary school in the Lower 9. Don’t our children deserve better?” Orleans Parish received well over a billion dollars of aid in the wake of Katrina, but community members in the Lower Ninth Ward say that money was not distributed, but spent on projects for the elite. “People come down here and take pictures but that doesn’t bring any money,” said neighborhood activist Loyed Lonzo.

“From what we’ve seen, the only way we can get them to do something is to protest,” said Vanessa Gueringer. Orleans Parish still has millions in aid and grants to rebuild, but it is spent predominantly in upper-class neighborhoods, on infrastructure for tourism and on projects for the upcoming 2013 Super Bowl.

“There has been disenfranchisement here for decades and we will never get representation if we don’t fight,” Gueringer said. “The city of New Orleans needs to be ashamed of itself for seeing all of those people devastated by the flooding and then take that FEMA money and not do anything for us.”

#NewOrleansLA #HurricaneKatrina #LowerNinthWard