Temporary campus may be done by year’s end

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 21, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

RESERVE – The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board curtailed the bickering and unified to choose an architect for the construction of the Lake Pontchartrain Elementary temporary campus during their regular meeting on Thursday evening.
As promised, Superintendent Kevin George had already narrowed a selection of 20 prospective architects and presented them to the board for review three weeks prior. George announced his top selections: Holly and Smith Architects of Hammond; Broadmoor Design Group of Metairie; and Chasm and Fusion Architecture of Baton Rouge.
Board member Patrick Sanders made a motion to choose Chasm and Fusion, on the grounds that the company said it could complete construction by this December.
Board member Russ Wise opposed the motion, saying he would abstain from voting because he had not had the chance to ask any of the contenders key questions. Wise also mentioned that he voted against having the superintendent choose three prospective architects because he felt George had the ability to make the final choice himself.
“I have several questions that I was expecting to be able to ask of these folks so I could make an informed decision. We’ve not heard from any of them, and we’re voting strictly on the idea that one of them promises to finish before the start of the second semester. Nobody can predict that that can happen. The other two acknowledge that that would be darn near impossible to do,” he said.
“I sort of agree with Mr. Wise, but we should’ve put that in the specs, that we wanted the companies to come before this board to answer any questions. I’m assuming, and I hope, based on the information presented, that the administration has asked all of the necessary questions. I feel confident that these are the three companies that would provide us with the best quality service,” Sanders offered.
Board member Rodney Nicholas dittoed Sanders’ comment, saying the board had ample time to contact the companies or the superintendent if there were questions.
Sanders’ motion passed almost unanimously, with nine yeas, one abstention, one absent.
Architect Brad Guerin then addressed the board’s concern about the tentative timeline and explained his firm’s previous experience with East Baton Rouge Parish School District. Guerin said his company had designed 72 temporary classrooms for the district in a period of three weeks and designed permanent classrooms within two weeks.
He went on to say that Chasm and Fusion had completed more than 200 modular classroom designs over the last decade, throughout the state. The firm is slated to begin construction of the temporary campus next week.
“How confident are you that you can complete it by the end of December,” asked board member Lowell Bacas.
“Pretty confident, from the feedback that we got from the manufacturers of modular buildings, several of them locally, here within the state, that have modular buildings on site,” said Guerin.
Guerin explained that the company had already begun contacting modular building companies to find out what the delivery time would be. The architect alleged that the school would have time to purchase the prefabricated modular buildings, which could be delivered within weeks. Contractors would work on the site in the meantime.
In other items of interest, George announced that FEMA would be visiting the school sites on Sept. 24.
George also said he had received a lot of questions from concerned parents’ about Common Core Standards.
The superintendent will host two meetings to explain the state standards and offer suggestions about things parents can do at home to help their children.
The first meeting will be held on Oct. 1 at West St. John Elementary at 5 p.m. The second will be held on Oct. 2 at LaPlace Elementary, also at 5 p.m.