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School Board needs to maintain LPE timeline

There are 11 people that make up the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board, and new School Board President Keith Jones said they are all working as one for the betterment of the parish’s students.

Their collective work is needed in the wake of somewhat disappointing news that a new Lake Pontchartrain Elementary is more than two years away — scheduled to reopen in its same location for the 2017-18 school year.

The school has been shuttered since 2012’s Hurricane Isaac.

“I don’t agree and am a little disappointed with the timeline,” Jones told L’OBSERVATEUR Thursday.

“I’ve stated that in open meetings. I wish we could get (the students) in sooner.

“However, this is the process, and we were waiting on FEMA. There just was a lot of red tape. I know all the Board members feel the same way. Our hands were tied. If we could have done it sooner, we would have definitely moved the timeline up.”

LPE’s new 95,927 square foot school building will be located on the same footprint at 3328 Highway 51 in LaPlace.

The demolition contract should be awarded in March, with demolition starting by the beginning of April.

“It’s going to be a state-of-the-art school,” Jones said. “It’s definitely going to be elevated, because we’re still dealing with some levee issues now. Just in case we have a situation like that (again), we won’t have all our kids displaced.”

Jones credited parents and various school administrations, teachers and staff for demonstrating patience and understanding as LPE students have been shuttled to various locations in the years since Hurricane Isaac caused so much damage locally.

However, with a timeline and promises in place for a better Lake Pontchartrain Elementary come 2017, we need the School Board to hold those involved to the existing schedule, avoiding more delays, which have already cost this project too many years.

Time will be the ultimate truth teller.

“We (the Board) have 11 different personalities; however, we’re going to be as one and continue to work for the betterment of the kids,” said Jones, who was elected School Board president this month by his fellow Board members. “I believe in unity. I don’t know everything, so I’m going to rely on Dr. (Gerald) Keller, Mr. (Patrick) Sanders, Mr. (Clarence) Triche and others, but in my leadership, I really feel confident that we’re going in the right direction.”