Board leases modular buildings for Livonia High, more student expected in fall

NEW ROADS — The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board decided Monday night to spend approximately $142,000 to lease four modular buildings that will give Livonia High School the additional space it needs to accommodate the influx of students that will attend the school in the fall due to the closure of Pointe Coupee Central High.

But board members Ted Nelson and Chad Aguillard, who voted against the board’s decision Monday, are still hoping the school district can keep Pointe Coupee Central open during the 2014-15 school year.

“At our last meeting we discussed the possibility of opening Pointe Coupee Central for the 2014-15 school year and (the superintendent) indicated she needed to get some more information based on a study she was doing,” Nelson said during Monday’s meeting.

“Are we going to get this information anytime soon because my position is I’d like to present something to the court asking that the court open Pointe Coupee Central for the upcoming school year. I understand we can’t do it without getting permission from the court.”

The board voted 6-2 to pay Williams Scotsman, Inc. an estimated $142,445 on a 12-month lease to install four modular buildings on the Livonia campus. The buildings will add eight additional classrooms for the school.

Board members Frank Aguillard, Les Ann Grezaffi, Brandon Bergeron, James Cline, Kevin Hotard and Anita LeJeune voted in favor of the measure.

The consolidation of the two schools is being forced by U.S. District Judge James J. Brady’s April 7 decision to close Pointe Coupee Central at the request of the state’s Recovery School District. The RSD asked the court in March to return jurisdiction of the school to the School Board. The state had failed to improve the struggling school’s academic performance during the six years the school was operated under the state’s umbrella.

The consolidation has ignited an outcry from residents who want Pointe Coupee Central to remain open and be used as the parish’s lone high school. They have argued the campus, rather than the Livonia campus, could better accommodate the influx of students the consolidation will entail.

In their original petition to the court, the RSD said approximately 185 students, in grades eight through 12, were enrolled at Pointe Coupee Central High as of Oct. 1, 2013. School officials previously gauged Livonia’s current enrollment at approximately 900 students.

Nelson touched on those concerns Monday night while stressing an urgency for Superintendent Linda D’Amico to present the board with an alternative plan that could keep Pointe Coupee Central open in the fall.

However, D’Amico could not attend Monday’s meeting due to an injury.

“I know Mrs. D’Amico is working hard to come up with plan for this board,” Board President Frank Aguillard said. “If she has something, I’ll call another special meeting.”

At the board’s April 24 meeting, the superintendent said she was in talks with officials from Baton Rouge Community College who expressed interest in partnering with the school district to turn Pointe Coupee Central into one of its satellite career-readiness academies.

At that meeting, the Rev. Larry Oliver, a former principal at Pointe Coupee Central before it was under RSD control, also presented the board with a detailed plan to keep Pointe Coupee Central open in the fall as a career and technology program featuring college- and career-oriented curricula.

Chad Aguillard expressed interest Monday night in marrying those concepts.

“If there’s a broad framework of agreement we need to start moving to put the best people in place,” Chad Aguillard said. “I do believe it needs to be open in the upcoming year. I think if we work hard we can make it work and I hope the board would embrace that framework.”

LeJeune said the board would also need cost projections for much-needed repairs at the Pointe Coupee Central campus before any decisions to keep the campus open could be made.

Frank Aguillard indicated that, so far, efforts to reach out to RSD officials about damage assessments on the campus have been unsuccessful.