School officials at T.M. Landry College Preparatory says they believe they’ll have a temporary permit to open in a new location at 3403 Moss Street by Friday. They plan to take in students starting the Thursday after Mardi Gras.
Just before our newscast at 5:00 p.m., KATC learned the fire marshal had not yet approved the facility to operate as a school and were on scene investigating the property after learning about the proposed site. Last night we told you that school officials were moving supplies from the Breaux Bridge location.
At 6:00 p.m. the fire marshal’s office said they concluded their investigation and took the following action in regards to the new Lafayette site:
- Citation to submit plans for review to change the occupancy at 3403 Moss St., Lafayette, La from storage use to educational use.
- Cease and desist order for any construction on site.
- A directive issued that no occupancy is to be granted until plans are submitted, reviewed, and released by the OSFM Plan Review division and then a satisfactory final inspection conducted by OSFM deputies.
In fact, State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning tells KATC they have been working with school officials to get the Breaux Bridge location compliant since 2017. They said despite requests, they haven’t had proof that the requirements they set forth to change the occupancy from a fabrication shop to a school have been met, such as an installation of a fire alarm system.
“We have worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of the building occupied by T.M. Landry College Prep and to cooperate with the challenges the school has faced in complying with state fire safety codes,” said State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning, “Transitioning a former fabrication shop into an educational facility, by law, is extensive due to the different threats from fire and other emergencies of each of those occupancies. This requires prior approval and inspection by the State Fire Marshal’s office before legal occupancy can occur, which did not occur in the school’s Breaux Bridge location. However, they were allowed multiple emergency contingencies of fire watch procedure due to the school’s multiple efforts to move.”
In April of 2018 fire officials said they were told the school planned on moving, so they allowed new plans to be submitted for the location at 1819 Moss Street. Those plans were approved.
However, the fire marshal’s office tells us when they learned today that the school was planning on opening at 3403 Moss Street, they sent investigators to the location because they had not approved the site.
“Regarding the occupying of any new location, we cannot allow a new building to open without a full certificate of occupancy, which guarantees an acceptable level of fire safety,” said Browning, “Pending the outcome of this new investigation, we will re-evaluate the status of the temporary use at the school’s Breaux Bridge location as well.”
Wednesday night we told you that Mike Landry, the school’s co-founder, and board member Greg Davis confirmed to KATC that the school is moving into the old roller skating rink on Moss Street from a building on Rees Street in Breaux Bridge.
“We found this facility and the improvements that are required are far less stringent, and much more affordable, and the owner of this facility is going to help pay a substantial amount of that construction improvement number,” Davis said.
“We decided that most of the students’ families are from Lafayette,” Landry said, “and this would be more convenient for them.”
“We’re still in the process of moving,” Davis said. “We’ll be having classes in Breaux Bridge until the Mardi Gras break.”
Davis said before they can use the entire facility, they will need to build a firewall, install a couple more exit doors, and do some improvements to the fire alarm system.
“We appreciate the fact that all they want to do is make our facility safe for our students and we are going to work with them 100% to meet the requirements,” Davis said.
Our media partners at The Advocate report that the school gave its landlord only a few days of notice. The building’s owner, Neal Hebert, told The Advocate that the school’s lease was to expire in November 2020.
Hebert said school officials notified him last weekend, just one month after he agreed to reduce the rent by about 40 percent. The school refused to negotiate a lease termination, Hebert told the Advocate.
To read the rest of the Advocate’s story, including reaction from TM Landry officials, click here.
Davis tells us they had to move out of the Breaux Bridge location because of the amount of work it would take to get the building compliant with the fire codes.
The move comes three months after a New York Times article alleged that school administrators abused students and falsified records to secure students’ admission into prestigious universities.
Shortly after the allegations were published, around 35 students withdrew from the school, leaving enrollment at 75. The school’s board also hired a law firm to conduct an investigation into those allegations.
According to Davis, that investigation is still ongoing.
“I hope I’ll be getting a report soon,” Davis said. “I emphasize ‘hope.’ I can’t say that I know [when the report will be delivered] because I don’t. I’m staying at arm’s length from [the investigation].”