New school sites offered to St. John Parish

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 24, 2006


Staff Reporter 

EDGARD – As St. John Parish is preparing to expand one school and build another, a third addition could also be in the works if the school board decides to take a developer up on his offer of selling 23 acres of land for the intent of building a new school within a new subdivision.

Developer Donald Jones of New Millennium Village, L.L.C. has offered 2.5 acres beside East St. John High School at the price of $200,000 to be used for a proposed freshman academy.

Another 20.57 acres west of the high school would be available for purchase at $719,950, which the board said they would use to build an elementary school.

The offer stipulates that the board would allow Jones’ company or a company of his choosing to construct both the freshman addition and elementary school.

Jones said the 20.57 acres has already been separated into lots and the value of those lots has been appraised at more than $2.6 million.

&#8220We are giving it (the land) to the school board for less than what we bought it,” Jones said. &#8220When you subtract $700,000 from $2.7 million, that means I’m giving you fine gentleman $2 million. It’s a gift.”

Jones is proposing to build a subdivision around the new elementary school citing that it only makes sense to build the people around the school as opposed to forming a neighborhood and adding the school afterwards.

&#8220We’re interested in strategically positioning these schools so you could minimize two things,” Jones said. &#8220If you have that school situated there, that means you don’t have to have more school buses to bus these kids from here to across the parish. It also means the school board can use save that money, put it back into the administration and do other things with it.”

Superintendent Michael Coburn thanked Jones for his time and his offer, noting that Jones is the first local developer to approach the school board in his administration with land set aside for the construction a new campus.

&#8220I’m very excited about the situation,” Coburn said. &#8220We’ve had some lengthy discussions about this.”

Not all board members shared Coburn’s excitement about the initial prospect. Board member Russ Wise spoke up about the offer saying that stipulations within it are suited to benefit Jones needs more so than the school board.

&#8220Quite frankly I think I see a couple of loopholes in this that are big enough to drive a dump truck through,” Wise said. &#8220I would want to discuss this at much greater length before we entered into any kind of agreement.”

Wise would not go into specifics about the problems he saw with the offer, but the school board would be meeting again to discuss the prospects at length.

The school board also returned from New York last week after being reviewed by a national bond agency for the purpose of selling $18 million in bonds to construct a new elementary school and an addition to East St. John High School.

The bond agency Standard & Poor awarded St. John Parish an &#8220A” rating, according to Coburn, the third highest rating possible. The rating will help the school obtain a better interest rate and enable the school district to buy a guaranty bond for insurance as opposed to setting aside $1.3 million from the bond sale in a reserve fund as a guarantee of payment to investors.