New gym delayed, board says

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 19, 2001


RESERVE – Students at Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School may not be getting a gymnasium any time soon. Instead, St. John School Board members are concerned about where that money would come from and if the need for the building is as urgent as the need for more classroom space at the school. At the Thursday night school board meeting, architect Alton Darby Jr. was prepared to present preliminary plans for the gym, but board members instead wanted to hear an explanation of the plans rather than view them. The plans for the gym, similar to those he has designed in other parishes, have already been viewed by teachers at the school to see if they like them. According to Michael Coburn, Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School’s last principal and superintendent-elect, the cost of the structure would be between $750,000 to $1 million. Darby added that considering the bids they have received on recent projects, they could probably get the job done for much lower than $1 million. “Of course, it would be an added asset to our school,” said Coburn. He added it would, however, be an added expense to the school system. Coburn, Darby, board member Felix LeBouef and Assistant Superintendent Wilbert Ocmond met together to discuss the plans and decided to design the building after Lake Elementary School in Gonzales. The gym would be to the left of the school and have a lobby connection to the existing school. The gym would include a full-size basketball court, a volleyball court, bleachers that would hold around 600 people, and the building could accommodate over 1,000 people for special events. Classrooms could be added on both sides of the building, serving as an extension to the academic building. It would be around 13,000 square feet. Board member John Crose, concerned about the need for classrooms at the school, said, “We are turning students away from Garyville Magnet. Do we build a gym or look into extra classrooms?” Board Mmember James Madere said, “Before I can support a gym, we need to look at classroom needs for our entire system.” Also in agreement with the need for classroom space in the entire parish, board member Russ Wise added, “A parish-wide plan for redesigning schools is needed. That money might be badly needed elsewhere. I’m not sure our priorities will go in that direction right now.” LeBouef, who represents the district the school is in, argued that when money is needed for Garyville or the West Bank it can never be found. “Garyville Magnet is a junior high school, and it should receive equipment like the other junior highs. The game I play is kids first. When it rains, they don’t have anywhere to play,” he said. Coburn said he plans to go into further study to determine where money would be generated and come back to the board at a later date.