School Board wants land from developers

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 20, 2006


Staff Reporter

RESERVE – The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board will ask the Parish Council to consider amending a parish ordinance to require residential developers to set aside land for neighborhood schools when building new subdivisions.

Board Member Clarence Triche said that after doing a study for available land development, the findings showed that St. John Parish has very little land available left that can be purchased towards new schools.

He proposed a somewhat controversial motion that would change the wording of an existing law from &#8220developers may set aside land for schools when building neighborhoods” to &#8220developers shall set aside land.”

Board Member Matthew Ory said,” While I know that there is a need to set aside land for school in new developments, I am concerned that the change in the ordinance will discourage new developers from wanting to build here.”

He also had concerns about how this would affect small developments.

&#8220If you were looking to buy a house wouldn’t you be willing to pay a little more for a home to have a neighborhood school in your area?” asked Tiche

Wise said, &#8220In this area we already require developers to have green space available when building homes and when people move in kids will too. People would rather buy a house near a school, so the house would sell and the problem of driving development away would correct itself.”

Board Member Dowie Gendron said he had some concerns about the possible change in the ordinance as well, saying that if the ordinance was considered, there should be a lot size exception that protected smaller subdivisions from being required to build schools.

Triche informed the board that the exception is already included for small subdivisions saying the ordinance stated that the size of a development under 40 acres.

Board Member Russel Jack opposed the motion saying he believes the attempt to change the ordinance would be targeted at the West Bank because that is where most of the undeveloped land is.

&#8220We have enough schools at this time and we are not planning new housing developments right now,” Jack said.

The motion to go to the Parish Council and ask them to change the ordinance passed with nine yays, one nay, by Jack, and Gendron abstaining.

In other business, there was more discussion on raises for substitute teachers and bus drivers.

&#8220Some bus drivers are concerned that if the raises pass they will be too close to permanent bus driver pay,” said Ory.

The Bus Driver of the Year, Dallas Bardell was named, and there was some discussion as to how to alleviate the bus driver shortage which was compounded by the early dismissal of East St. John High School and Lake Pontchartrain Elementary on Friday. There are several options that the board will discuss to help solve the problems.

Schools will be closed Nov. 20-24 for Thanksgiving break and the board adopted some changes in personnel and policies.