Board approves $1 million in ESJ school change orders

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, December 16, 2014

LAPLACE — Nearly $1 million in change orders for renovations at East St. John High School were approved Thursday by the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board.

The Reserve school has been closed since 2012 when Hurricane Isaac flooded the facilities, and the approved change orders include a switch from vinyl tile floors to polished concrete and revisions to the scope of work on the exterior walls of the main classroom building.

All South Consulting Engineers’ Cindy Janecke, the project manager for the district’s rebuilding efforts at ESJ and Lake Pontchartrain Elementary, said the Board’s Land and Facilities Committee approved the proposed change orders a few days before Thursday’s vote, and the changes are not expected to delay the school’s opening, slated for August.

Janecke said because a moisture barrier would likely need to be installed under ESJ’s originally planned vinyl floor tiles, the switch to the polished concrete was more financially desirable for the present and the future, as the cost of maintaining the concrete is much lower than maintaining tile.

The estimated cost for the concrete flooring for the main building, gym, cafeteria and two other buildings at the campus is $812,226.

The Board also approved a change order for an amount not to exceed $186,692 to remediate growth found as bricks were being taken off exterior walls of the school.

Janecke said she could not positively identify the issue as mold, but did verify “some sort of growth” was found, and testing is under way to determine exact remediation needed.

“The safety of our students is our priority,” School Board member Rodney Nicholas said before the vote to approve the remediation change order, but added he is concerned with the high dollar amount associated with the work orders.

Janecke told the Board because it was a renovation, the work at East St. John was assumed to have unknowns associated with it and a $1 million budget for unknowns was included in the original budget.

She told the Board everyone involved was “working very hard to make sure these changes don’t affect Lake Pontchartrain Elementary.”

Initially, Federal Emergency Management Agency funding available to renovate ESJ was $14.8 million. Janecke said after approaching FEMA and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Pre-paredness with additional reports and information about the conditions of the school, more money was added, bringing the total to $23.3 million.

Initial funds to demolish the current LPE and rebuild a new school were $11 million and later raised to $15.3 million, bringing total funding available to rebuild both schools, including FEMA dollars and money earmarked from district taxes, to $56.6 million.

Janecke said under new FEMA guidelines, the School Board will have discretion over how and for what project the money is spent.

The new LPE building, which will be located on the same footprint at 3328 Highway 51 in LaPlace, is slated to open at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.