East Feliciana School Board discusses building maintenance issues

Nearly $702,000 in available federal funds will be used for needed maintenance in East Feliciana Parish schools, said Mitch Harrell, vice president and chairman of the school system’s Building Committee.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Harrell told board members the Building Committee’s recommendations are based on a needs assessment recently made by James C. Bell Jr., building superintendent.

It would cost $3.3 million to make all the maintenance upgrades and repairs, said Harrell, but the district only has approximately $710,000.

More than half of the allocated money, or $425,000, will be used to upgrade or replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Jackson Elementary School.

Another $60,000 and $23,000, respectively, will be used to upgrade the boilers at East Feliciana High School and East Feliciana Middle School.

Other upgrades include $48,000 for a new roof at Slaughter Elementary School and $10,000 in parking lot repairs at East Feliciana Middle School.

Harrell also told the board that another $72,000 was available in the 2013-2014 tax collections to upgrade the gym floors and gym lighting at East Feliciana Middle School.

Harrell, however, asked if that was the best use of the money since bathrooms and classrooms needed upgrading, including better lighting.

Board President Michael Bradford asked Harrell about changing the appropriation use since the gym floor maintenance already had been approved by the board. Harrell said he thought that bathroom and classroom facilities should take priority over gym maintenance, but the board made no decision to make a change.

Turning to another building issue, board member Benjamin Cupit said multi-purpose buildings at Slaughter and Clinton Elementary schools needed to be completed so they could be used.

Or, said Cupit, the board should apologize to the public, tear them down and tell the public what happened.

Cupit said the buildings have never been used and are only shells. He said when the large buildings were bought in 2006, it was the intention of the board to get the public to pay for and volunteer the inside work so the buildings could have classrooms, bathrooms and a small gym.

Harrell told members that was not possible because after looking into building codes and fire permits, the board learned the work had to be contracted out to licensed professionals to meet safety standards and liability requirements.

On another matter, Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. reported that he, along with other district superintendents of the state School Superintendents Association, had made a number of recommendations about the Common Core State Standards, including the gradual implementation of the standards to allow time for teacher preparation, curriculum preparation, resource identification and reduction of gaps in student learning.

Lewis said that because of a lack of resources and uncertainty, a two-year minimum is also needed to establish a new baseline for teacher evaluation and school district accountability.

Common Core is a series of math and English standards that have been integrated into the Louisiana public school teaching.