FEMA authorizes $17.5 million for ESJ, Lake Pontchartrain Elementary

Published 10:30 am Monday, July 21, 2014

RESERVE — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has obligated the first funding negotiated under the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 for the repair of two St. John the Baptist Parish public schools flooded during Hurricane Isaac.

The federal agency has authorized more than $17.5 million for repairs to East St. John High School in Reserve and Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School in LaPlace.

Work at the high school will include selective demolition, mold remediation and environmental cleaning of five campus buildings.

In addition, the school district will upgrade heating and cooling systems, re-insulate, re-waterproof and replace the exterior sheathings on two buildings, install ADA hardware and public restrooms, replace the gym bleachers and cafeteria equipment and relocate the concession stand from the cafeteria to the gym.

Much of the flooring, ceiling tiles and wall boards will also be replaced.

Work at the elementary school will include demolition of the old building and the construction of a new, elevated elementary school at the site.

The remaining projects — repairs to the field house and the building of a combination earthen levee/sheet pile wall for flood protection at East St. John High — will be authorized separately.

“The fund obligation announcement was much needed after a year of working together as one to get our schools reopened,” St. John Schools Superintendent Kevin R. George said. “When we pull together and place children first, great things happen. Although this is good news, I will not rest nor will I be satisfied until our children are back where they belong.”

The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board will consider awarding a contract for the repairs to East St. John High School when it meets for its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at West St. John Elementary School in Edgard.

Once a contractor is selected, construction is expected to be complete by June, with the school reopening in time for the 2015-16 school year.

Lake Pontchartrain Elementary is in the preliminary planning stages and is expected to reopen for the 2017-18 school year.

The school district applied for funding under the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act, designed to streamline the process of receiving FEMA funding, in September. The application was approved by FEMA in April.

The school district’s Sandy Act application with FEMA provides for $39.3 million, which will be combined with school district funding generated through two bond issues authorized by St. John the Baptist Parish voters, to repair and rebuild East St. John High School and Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School.