April 30 Election: School District Bond Proposition concerns capital projects

Published 5:27 pm Thursday, April 14, 2022

LAPLACE — The only item on the ballot for the April 30 special election concerns the funding of numerous capital improvement projects in the St. John the Baptist Parish Public School System.

A vote “yes” on Parishwide School District Bond Proposition No. 1 will authorize the School District to issue up to $58 million in bonds to be used solely for capital improvement projects that were selected with input from school leaders and community members.

School Board President Nia Mitchell-Williams said this proposition will not increase taxes. The district currently levies 11 mills and anticipates to continue to levy 11 mills in property taxes for general obligation bonds.

Community forums were held at each school site to generate the following capital improvement/ construction projects, all of which would be funded through the bond issue:

  • Classroom technology updates – ActivPanels in all classrooms
  • Update interior/exterior lighting districtwide
  • Restroom upgrades districtwide
  • Install new playground at West St. John Elementary for HeadStart and younger elementary students
  • Create STEM labs at both high schools
  • Performing Arts auditorium upgrades at John L. Ory and West St. John Elementary
  • John L. Ory – Car rider pick-up and drop-off improvements & playground
  • Two gymnasiums – LaPlace Elementary and Emily C. Watkins Elementary
  • West St. John High upgrades to locker rooms at Dinvaut Stadium
  • Stadium field house at West St. John High
  • East St. John High and West St. John High gymnasium floor upgrade/ replacement
  • Four new scoreboards – ESJ and WSJ baseball and softball fields
  • HVAC upgrades – districtwide
  • HVAC replacement at Emily C. Watkins
  • Roof replacement at East St. John, John L. Ory, Emily C. Watkins and West St. John Elementary
  • Water sewer upgrades at all sites (lift stations and backflow preventers)
  • Football stadium sound system upgrades at both high schools
  • Visitor side seating upgrades at Joe Keller Stadium
  • Hurricane Ida damages shortfall (not covered by insurance of FEMA)
  • Deferred maintenance and code upgrades – districtwide upgrades and repairs to HVAC systems, roofs, restrooms, drainage and site conditions, including ADA accessibility

While some of these projects require purchasing classroom items that would come in relatively quickly, other projects, such as new gymnasiums at two local elementary schools, would require a significant amount of time for construction.

“Some projects can be done before school opens for the 2022/2023 school year. Others will take a little longer,” Mitchell-Williams said. “The goal is to engage a project manager quickly and begin projects at the close of this school year.”

Some level of construction is anticipated to take place at every school site this summer, provided the bond proposition is approved. Some of this work would continue throughout the school year. Construction on some of the larger projects may take place over multiple years, depending on the scope of work.

Immediately after the election, District leaders plan to work with a project manager to develop timelines for each of the projects.

Most of the projects listed are not related to Hurricane Ida damage to facilities, but are items needed to enhance the daily educational experiences of students.

However, in the event that FEMA or insurance funds do not cover a Hurricane Ida-related repair, the School District can consider using bond proceeds to finance shortfalls related to capital projects.

Early voting takes place from Saturday, April 16 through Saturday, April 23, excluding Sunday, April 17.

Election Day is Saturday, April 30.