Ball now in FEMA’s court for shool repairs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 25, 2014


St. John the Baptist Parish school district has submitted its request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for funding to repair two schools flooded during Hurricane Isaac.

FEMA has until Feb. 20 to come to an agreement with the School Board and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness on the funding package submitted on Jan. 16 through the Alternative Procedures Pilot Program, which was developed after Super Storm Sandy to help expedite public assistance for projects that had not yet begun construction.

The hurricane-related repairs to East St John High School and Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School were both eligible projects under FEMA’s guidelines. The pilot program allows the school district to lump together FEMA funding from multiple buildings and use it with flexibility to make needed repairs or code upgrades at the schools, whether or not FEMA initially agreed to fund those repairs.

The school district notified GOHSEP in December that it would pursue funding through the pilot program and since that time All South Consulting Engineers has been working, on behalf of the district, with GOHSEP and FEMA to develop a scope of work for the repairs at each school and to agree upon a cap for the FEMA funding. Once agreed upon, the School Board will be locked into a fixed, but flexible, amount for repairs at both schools.

FEMA is currently reviewing the scope of work, which would return the schools to their pre-Isaac condition and allow for some code upgrades not normally covered by FEMA.

No construction work can begin at either campus until FEMA has approved and obligated the funding. In the meantime, the school district will begin preliminary work such

as surveying, permitting, geotechnical work and coordinating with the Louisiana Department of Transportation, St. John the Baptist Parish and other entities to expedite the process as much as possible after the funding is received.

“We are anxiously awaiting the awarding of those funds and doing as much preliminary work as we can in the meantime so that we can hit the ground running once they are received,” Superintendent Kevin George said. “I am excited to be so close to the final approval needed to allow us to begin construction work at those campuses and to put us one step closer to getting our students back in their schools.”

As a condition of FEMA funding and as a requirement of insurance, FEMA has already provided funding for mitigation efforts at both ESJHS and LPE. Those mitigation efforts will primarily be for the construction of a sheet pile and earthen levee around the perimeter of each facility. These levees will alleviate problems with standing water during heavy rains and protect the schools from flooding during any future hurricanes. FEMA has agreed to provide $5 million for the levee project at the high school and $1.5 million at the elementary school.