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August 08, 2006
Contact: Christina Stephens, christina.stephens@la.gov

LRA Proposes Process for Distributing Infrastructure Funds, Project Design Criteria for Schools

BATON ROUGE, La. (August 08, 2006) - The Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) proposed a process for distributing more than $200 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to repair and rebuild K-12 schools at a at joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Education today. The funds will cover the 10 percent match costs that school districts are required to pay for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Public Assistance program and other critical FEMA-ineligible repair costs.

Costs not covered by FEMA include uninsured or underinsured facilities, rebuilding schools that did not meet building codes prior to the storm and damages that did not directly result from Hurricanes Katrina or Rita. For example, if termite damage is discovered while a previously flooded school facility is being gutted, certain repairs are necessary before reopening the school though the costs will not be eligible for reimbursement from FEMA.

"It is so important that we keep an open dialogue on these issues," said House Education Committee Chairman Carl Crane, R-Baton Rouge. "We are all in the same business of rebuilding education in this state and giving our children the best opportunities possible."

In cooperation with the Louisiana State Department of Education and the Louisiana State Division of Administration's Office of Community Development, the LRA designed eligibility and evaluation criteria for projects seeking funding for FEMA ineligible repairs from the $200 million in CDBG.

"We established these criteria to ensure we rebuild our schools safer, stronger and smarter than before," said LRA Board Member and Education Committee Chair Linda Johnson. "These unfortunate circumstances have provided us with a rare opportunity to rebuild our school system using the best practices and principles around in school design today. In keeping with our overall mission, we are committed to spending these funds wisely and accounting for them honestly."

Applications detailing the criteria will be distributed to the school districts by late August. School districts will be asked to complete these applications for funding of FEMA-ineligible repairs. Each application will be checked for eligibility and evaluated based on compliance with the criteria. Based on the completed application, the school district will be awarded a grant or provided with technical assistance to revise its application to meet the established requirements.

To provide the optimum learning environments for students, the criteria include current school design best practices including:
  • Building schools with flexible facilities to encourage teaching to different styles of learning
  • Developing a small school culture
  • Making schools a vital part of the community
  • Integrating the public in the school planning process
"We welcomed this opportunity to provide support to schools devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," said Victoria Bergsagel, Founder and President of Seattle-based Architects of Achievement, a group that partners with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to offer support and consulting services to organizations redesigning schools. "Using our experience with the Los Angeles Unified School District and other schools around the country, we look forward to putting these best practices to use so that principles that guide good instruction and those that direct building design can work in concert for the benefit of all of Louisiana's students."

Steven Bingler, Founder and President, Concordia, LLC and a New Orleans-based architect was the primary author of the principles of school design that serve as a basis for the LRA's criteria. Used in school districts around the country, these principles are widely-accepted by both academics and practitioners.

After receiving feedback from the joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Education, the LRA Board is scheduled to consider the criteria at their upcoming board meeting on Thursday, August 10, 2006.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated South Louisiana, destroying more than 200,000 homes and 18,000 businesses. The Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) is the planning and coordinating body that was created in the aftermath of these storms by Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco to lead one of the most extensive rebuilding efforts in the world. The LRA is a 33-member body which is coordinating across jurisdictions, supporting community recovery and resurgence, ensuring integrity and effectiveness, and planning for the recovery and rebuilding of Louisiana.


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