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Joseph J. Davies Elementary
Joseph J. Davies Elementary
September 6, 2015 1:40 PM CDT

Oldcastle commemorates school reconstructions

10 years after Hurricane Katrina


On August 29, 2005, the nation watched as Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, damaging or destroying over 120 schools in the New Orleans school district alone. Many schools in the direct path of the storm were completely wiped out of existence, never to rise again. Some damaged schools were rebuilt on original sites, and others moved to completely different locations, while many school districts took the opportunity to completely restructure and build new school systems altogether. Ten years after the storm, most of these school communities have not only rebounded, but flourished, and Oldcastle looks back on our part in the recovery story.

First Class Elementary Education Rises from Toxic Floodwaters

Joseph J. Davies Elementary

Meraux, LA

In the close-knit community of Meraux, Hurricane Katrina roared through, destroying the levees and unleashing a flood that buried their town in a watery toxic soup of marsh, mud, oil, and gas. The entire community was evacuated by any form of transportation available--boat, bus, pickup truck, helicopter--forced to wait until the waters receded to survey the extent of the destruction. What they found upon their return was unimaginable.

"Every house, every street, every business was affected," said St. Bernard Parish School Board Superintendent Doris Voitier in a school board documentary regarding the storm. The board dealt with the reality that over half of the schools in the parish were destroyed beyond repair. Those that were still structurally sound had to be gutted and completely refurbished. In effect, the school system was gone.

But, the people of Meraux were determined to come home. "I made a pledge to the community that for the first child who arrived back, I would provide educational services," said Voitier. Thus began a whirlwind of rebirth and revitalization.

Joseph J. Davies Elementary School was one of the schools that had to be completely razed and rebuilt. Despite a construction timeline that had to be condensed from eighteen months to an amazing nine months due to repopulation demands, the phoenix that arose from Katrina's ashes garnered state, regional, and national construction excellence awards. This state-of-the art, technology-rich school is approximately 72,000 sq. ft. and consists of 44 classrooms, a computer room, a media center room, and an arts room. Amenities also include a performance stage and a large cafeteria with a fully accessorized kitchen.

The structure consists of architectural block, brick veneer, structural steel, standing seam metal roof, interior gypsum boards, and acoustical ceilings. Over 80,000 Trenwyth® Astra-Glaze-SW+® units in seven different colors were used throughout the interior of the school to create a vibrant learning environment to match the spirit of the returning families of Meraux.

Architect Firms: PBK - Baton Rouge, CSRS Architects - Baton Rouge
Architects: Fred Montes, PBK Partner; Wayne Reynaud, Architect; David Mogray, Project Executive/Designer
General Contractor: Gibbs Construction - New Orleans
Masonry Contractor: Rush Masonry - New Orleans

L.B. Landry High School
L.B. Landry High School

Award-Winning Design Brings Triumphant Revival to Historic School

L.B. Landry High School

Algiers, LA

Located in Algiers, with a picturesque view of the New Orleans skyline across the Mississippi River, L.B. Landry High School (Landry) was a historically significant school destroyed by Hurricane Katrina that required complete demolition and replacement. Already suffering from the abuse of time and neglect, Landry was shuttered after the storm due to extensive rain and wind damage. Few expected the 70-year-old school to reopen, but Landry had deep roots in the community as the first high school in the area to accept African-American students, thus a dedicated cadre of alumni and community leaders rallied to save it from the wrecking ball.

The existing facility, a city block of one- and two-story buildings arranged around a courtyard, was slated for demolition and replacement. The New Orleans-based Eskew+Dumez+Ripple (EDR) was selected to design a new 236,000-square-foot, $55 million building for the site and was given a tight time frame of six months for design and 20 months for construction.

The design team created a scheme that retained the old school's basic layout, with one notable exception. Instead of enclosing a central quadrangle, they removed one wing to provide visual access into the heart of the school, as well as back out to downtown New Orleans.

Constructed under stringent new hurricane-resistant standards, the concrete-and-steel framed structure is clad with Oldcastle Cordova Stone™ pre-finished cast stone masonry units. In addition to state-of-the-art educational facilities, vocational/technical center, and sports complexes, the newly constructed complex also houses a community health clinic. The project achieved LEED® for Schools Silver certification and was named in 2011 by Architectural Record as one of the ten featured schools in their annual “Schools of the 21st Century,” a special report highlighting the best and brightest in planning and design for K-12 education facilities. The project was also recognized by Architect magazine in their 2011 Design Review.

Architect Firm: Eskew+Dumez+Ripple - New Orleans
Lead Architect: Steve Dumez
Associate Architect: SHW Group - Houston
General Contractor: Satterfield and Pontikes Construction

For more information and to view more projects, visit

About the Author

John Cicciarelli is head of national sales and marketing for Echelon Masonry. In his role, he works closely with 12 companies across the country on a variety of leadership roles including sales development, manufacturing and new product development.


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