Demolition delay dooms timeline for Lake Pontchartrain Elementary

Published 12:20 am Saturday, September 5, 2015

RESERVE — Those waiting for the long-awaited reopening of Lake Pontchartrain Elementary are going to have to wait some more.

The school site, which sits on U.S. 51, has been unused by students since Hurricane Isaac struck the region in 2012. The LPE community of 600 kindergarten through eighth grade students and staff members are currently located in a temporary site at the rear of East St. John Elementary.

Construction plans announced earlier this year called for the school to be rebuilt and opened in August 2017. However, St. John the Baptist Parish School Board members approved a new timeline Thursday that pushed the school’s opening back to Jan. 7, 2018.

Cindy Janecke, with All South Consulting Engineers, which is serving as the project manager, placed the blame for the delay at the school district’s demolition contractor.

“The demolition contractor is finishing their work this week,” Janecke told School Board members Thursday night. “The proposed date they have told us is Sept. 8. They are behind schedule for a couple of reasons that are essentially internal to their company.”

Specifics for why the demolition contractor was behind were not discussed during Thursday’s meeting. School Board members did vote 10-0 to set a new Lake Pontchartrain Elementary construction timeline, one calling for a notice to proceed taking place Jan. 2, 2016, final completion set for Nov. 4, 2017, and the building open for student use on Jan. 7, 2018.

Janecke said Lake Pontchartrain’s construction is funded in part by FEMA, and one of the federal agency’s requirements to build back on the original site calls for new construction to be elevated.

“In order to do that, we had to put down a fill and have that settle before you could begin construction on that site,” Janecke said. “Part of the work that the demolition contractor had was to put in that fill and have that prepared. The fill will have to sit for 90 days after the work is completed by the demolition contractor.”

School Board members unanimously voted in March to award the demolition contract to ARC Abatement 1.

The process began shortly thereafter and was expected to finish in July. However, construction officials said work continued through this month.