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The City of New Orleans

Lower Mississippi Saltwater Intrusion Updates

Oct 03
2:28 PM
Lower Mississippi Saltwater Intrusion

NOLA Public Schools and Jefferson Parish Schools Unite in the Face of Potential Saltwater Intrusion Threat

(New Orleans – October 3, 2023) — In light of potential saltwater intrusion from the Mississippi River, NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS) and Jefferson Parish Schools (JP Schools) have partnered to reaffirm their unwavering commitment to the safety and quality of the educational experience for scholars across our communities. Together, our school districts are taking proactive measures to address this issue with the utmost care and attention.

NOLA-PS and JP Schools have initiated a comprehensive, well-coordinated response effort that involves collaboration with multiple key stakeholders, including the respective Jefferson Parish and City of New Orleans emergency preparedness entities, the United States Army Corp of Engineers, and the Louisiana Department of Health. We are also working closely with environmental health experts and professional engineers to conduct thorough evaluations of the water systems and mechanical systems in our facilities, placing the well-being of our students and staff as the top priority.

"We believe in the strength of collaboration, not only within our community but with neighboring school districts. While the saltwater intrusion has not yet reached Orleans Parish, we are preparing for the future and remain committed to delivering safe water for essential needs if the situation warrants it. It’s also important to note the city is working on developing a contingency plan for water distribution should the saltwater wedge reach Orleans Parish,” said NOLA-PS Superintendent Dr. Avis Williams. “Together with Jefferson Parish Schools, we are committed to keeping our school community informed every step of the way as we navigate this matter together.”

"In Jefferson Parish Schools, the safety of our students and employees is our top responsibility. We are continuing to work closely with our state and local officials to make sure we are ready, and in times like these, we recognize the importance of collaboration. We are actively partnering with neighboring school districts, including Orleans Parish, to address the challenges posed by the saltwater intrusion,” said Jefferson Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. James Gray. “We aren’t saltwater intrusion experts, which is why we remain in constant contact with the experts to utilize the best information available. However, we know plans can change as the situation evolves, and we will pivot as needed to keep our students and employees safe and continue to communicate with our stakeholders.”

To mitigate the potential impact of the saltwater intrusion, NOLA-PS and JP Schools will distribute comprehensive guidelines to its schools concerning water usage and provide regular updates and/or meetings with school leaders, as needed.

Our respective school districts are working closely with its food services to adapt meal preparation and distribution if required. NOLA-PS will provide detailed guidance to schools not utilizing the district's child nutrition services, encouraging them to engage with their food vendors to ensure the safe preparation of meals.

"Together, in collaboration with various city and state agencies and neighboring school districts, the Orleans Parish School Board is prepared and will remain vigilant in addressing the challenges we face with the potential saltwater intrusion. Our board is poised to assess challenges and provide support for any school needs that may arise. We have shown in the past our ability to listen to experts and make informed decisions, and we are ready to adapt and stay ahead of this evolving situation. Our dedication to the safety of our students and teachers remains resolute," said Orleans Parish School Board President, Olin Parker.

"We want to reassure our stakeholders that we are taking the necessary steps to ensure we are prepared. This includes purchasing bottles of water for students and staff, working with our Child Nutrition team so we can continue to provide high-quality meals, and analyzing the possible impact on internal controls to mitigate saltwater impacts to our Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, cooling towers, ice machines, and water heaters,” said Jefferson Parish Schools School Board President Ralph “Rem” Brandt, Jr. “We are excited to collaborate with the Orleans Parish School Board on this issue to ensure we continue to keep our schools open and our students, families, and community safe.”

NOLA-PS and JP Schools remain dedicated to monitoring the situation closely and will provide the community with regular updates. The safety and quality of our scholars' education are the highest priorities, and our school districts are fully committed to ensuring the best for our students and the community we serve.