Two new $38M schools are planned in Jefferson Parish. Who gets to choose the architects?


The Jefferson Parish School Board will open the process to choose architects to design and oversee the construction of two new pre-K through eighth-grade school campuses, rejecting Superintendent James Gray’s recommendation that the district hire the firms picked by his administration.

The board’s decision came at the end of a marathon meeting last week and included failed attempts from two board members to steer what could be lucrative contracts to their favored vendors. Those board members argued they were unfairly sidelined by Gray’s administration in the selection process.

The School Board voted to build the new schools at St. Ville Elementary in Harvey and Bunche Elementary in Metairie as part of a sweeping school reorganization plan approved last month.

At a subsequent School Board committee meeting, Gray recommended two firms receive the construction contracts: Grace Hebert Architects LLC for the new campus at Bunche; and Trapolin-Peer Architects LLC for the new campus at St. Ville.

The schools are expected to cost $38 million apiece.

At Wednesday’s meeting, board members Derrick Shepherd and Ricky Johnson, whose districts include the new campuses, questioned why school district officials had not asked them for their input prior to making the recommendation for architects.

“The rule before was that if it was in your district, you (the board member) had a right to select who you wanted,” said Johnson, who is in his third term on the board.

“That may have been a customary process,” Gray responded. “But that is not the rules.”

Gray pointed to the board’s written policy on facilities planning, which states that the “School Board shall select, upon the recommendation of the Superintendent, architects and/or engineers as needed to design new school buildings.”

Both board members introduced motions to replace architects recommended by Gray with their favored firms: Shepherd proposed N-Y Associates for the Bunche campus; and Johnson proposed William & Williams for the St. Ville campus. Both motions failed.

The School Board eventually decided to issue a request for qualifications to determine which architects to hire, with a directive that the school district’s Facilities Department present the draft solicitation at the Facilities Committee Meeting later this month.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the School Board also voted to declare six campuses as surplus property and to hire architects to demolish them, with a budget of $300,000 per site. The six campuses are part of the reorganization plan.

Those architects include Albert Architects for demolition of Butler Elementary; Manning, APC for demolition of Helen Cox High School; N-Y Associates for demolition of Mildred Harris Elementary; Scairono Martinez Architects for demolition of Haynes Academy; Meyer Engineers for demolition of Thomas Jefferson Academy; and Hewitt-Washington & Associates for demolition of Washington Elementary in Kenner.

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