All South out on ESJE rebuild

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, June 22, 2016

RESERVE — St. John the Baptist Parish School Board members accepted a $10.7 million insurance settlement in January to repair the fire-damaged East St. John Elementary School.

At the time, Project manager All South Consulting Engineers recommended the School Board set aside $8.7 million as a possible amount to cover rebuilding the section of the school on a reduced footprint where an August fire was most significant and renovating those areas that suffered minimal damage.

A representative of Yeates and Yeates Architects said the company hopes to have a completed design by June 30, and School Board members are expected to vote on any design before it is put out for public bid.

The East St. John Elementary construction timeline calls for students to return to the school site in January of 2018. School Board members shook up that timeline last week by eliminating All South Consulting Engineers as project manager.

“With this project only being one site and not overly technical, we felt like we could do that in-house working with the architect,” Superintendent Kevin George said. “Of course, if we had the money, we would prefer to have (All South) do it. At this time, we felt like it was an expense that we could cut and manage to do with the architect.”

St. John the Baptist Parish School Board members approved the cut Thursday during their acceptance of the 2016-17 academic year budget, which included administrative and finance committee recommendations.

School Board members took a proposed budget under advisement in May, with the finance committee reviewing the budget thereafter.

District leaders grappled with an estimated $6.9 million deficit in revenue for 2016-17 compared with 2015-16 thanks in large part to the loss of one time funds from a BP oil settlement ($2,165,222) and East St. John Elementary insurance proceeds ($3,824,750).

To make up the difference, School District administrators proposed cutting $5,672,095 in expenditures from a combination of more than 20 sources. Additional measures were approved Thursday via administrative and finance committee recommendations.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

School Board members also eliminated their contract for a public relations worker and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise coordinator, while ending their legislative lobbyist contract.

The School Board’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Policy, which was passed in 2014, was created to provide maximum opportunities for participation in its construction contracts and procurements for goods and services for businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and for businesses employing such persons.

The policy would continue being enforced in-house, George said, adding the District’s contract with Eliza Eugene Enterprises serving as coordinator is not being renewed.

The reductions in contracts last week allowed School Board members to reinstate programs previously set for the chopping block, including the Connections and Truancy programs, while also adding back a computer technician.

“There were five teachers that worked at the Connections Program at the Alternative School, so that will remain the same,” George said.

According to school leaders, the Connections Program targets the over-aged student population by screening students in six, seventh and eighth grade who are at least two years behind.