$18M bond sale approved for new St. John schools

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 19, 2006


Staff Reporter

RESERVE – St. John School Board Members approved the advertising for the sale of $18 million in school sales tax bonds on Thursday.

The money has already been earmarked by the board for the construction of two new schools on the east bank, but board member Russ wise assured that no land has been set aside and all the board is doing is freeing up capital for possible construction.

The board is seeking the construction of a new ninth grade academy as well as an elementary school to help alleviate overcrowding problems within the current schools.

The bond issue has met public criticism since its inception with parents and residents claiming that the west bank is being overlooked by the school board since both schools have been earmarked for the east bank.

West bank resident Art Smith made his objection of the bond sale evident at Thursday’s meeting.

&#8220We got too many other things that’s left undone,” Smith said. &#8220Why don’t we take some of that money and replace some books. I know at West St. John Elementary, the library needs new books, the library needs computers, the library needs a media center.”

Smith also noted there are classrooms on the west bank with leaky roofs, and some that are in need of asbestos removal. He also mentioned that according to his research, St. John Parish schools have a 50 percent drop out rate and are far from preparing their students to be ready for a top tier college.

&#8220The board said they’re not committed to building a new school but it’s earmarked already. That don’t fool me,” Smith said. &#8220Don’t put a bag on my head and try to tell me its dark outside.”

Smith’s comments drew an emotional response from board member Elexia Henderson

&#8220Nobody can say that this board has made any pre-assumptions about what they’re going to do other than provide the best education that we can for every student in St. John parish,” Henderson said. &#8220Don’t ever come before me and make accusations unless you are able to back that up.”

East St. John High principal Debbie Schum spoke to support the board on the bond issue and reiterate to the board and the public that the construction of new schools is not only necessary immediately but for the future of St. John.

&#8220There is no issue of east bank/west bank, the issue is what we’re doing for the students and children in this parish,” Schum said.  &#8220We are so crowded at East St. John High School that we’ve become limited in what we can offer.” East St. John had $3.4 million in scholarships awarded to graduates this past year, according to Schum, the highest amount in the school’s history.

&#8220One of the most important things that we need to let the public know is that we have a building school system and we offer a good program,” Schum said. &#8220For people to say that our system is not going in the right direction is giving the public the wrong picture.”

The School board will hold a special meeting Aug. 3 to select a bidder for the sales tax bonds.