Central School Board awards bids

Construction will begin in late May to add a ninth-grade academy to Central High School at roughly the same time demolition will begin on the old Central Middle School, the Central School Board decided Monday.

In a surprise move, after a lengthy discussion Monday night the board agreed unanimously to award the bid for $5.25 million to Buquet LeBlanc Inc., of Baton Rouge, rather than Cangelosi Ward General Contractors, also of Baton Rouge, to build the ninth-grade academy at the high school.

Buquet LeBlanc submitted the lowest of seven bids, but architects originally recommended eliminating it from consideration because it failed to supply a required document, an affidavit attesting that it’s an equal opportunity employer. Instead, architects recommended awarding the job to the slightly higher bid submitted by Cangelosi Ward.

Attorneys with Buquet LeBlanc and Ken Sills, who represent Central, determined Monday the missing document is not necessary under state law and therefore need not bar awarding the contract to Buquet LeBlanc.

“We felt we made the right decision and got the lowest price for the school system in the process,” Superintendent Michael Faulk said after the meeting.

The work on the two-story addition to the high school, at 10200 E. Brookside Drive, is set to conclude in June 2015 in time for the start of the 2015-16 school year.

The high school already has a freshman academy. The new ninth grade academy is meant to free up space for the upper grades and provide the ninth-graders a school-within-a-school setting.

ARC Abatement’s Tickfaw office submitted the lowest of nine responsive bids for the demolition of parts of the old Central Middle School with a bid of almost $329,000. The board voted Monday to award ARC the demolition contract.

The old middle school property, 11526 Sullivan Road, was vacated in summer 2012 when Central built a new middle and intermediate school at another location.

The old school has a gym, known as the girl’s gym, built in the 1920s and remembered fondly by many Central residents.

The school system has posted a public notice, giving interested residents a chance to move the gym to a different location if they can pay for it and do it quickly enough. Faulk said the old gym will be the last building demolished, meaning residents have no more than four months to move the girl’s gym.

The future of the 29-acre property is uncertain. The school system is renovating some of it for office space but also has offered 14 of the acres to the city of Central for a possible future city center.