WBR board takes tour of schools

Just like students on a field trip, West Baton Rouge Parish School Board members visited the parish’s 10 schools Saturday to get a glimpse of any needed repairs.

The School Board members traveled to the campuses by bus and were given walking tours by school administrators.

Parish School Superintendent David Corona, who also rode along with the board members, said the trip began around 7:30 a.m. and was set to end around 1 p.m.

Around 9 a.m. Saturday, School Board members arrived at Port Allen High School on Rosedale Road for their third stop of the day.

Port Allen High Assistant Principal John Williams greeted the board members at the front of the school and took them around the facility.

Along the way, Williams pointed out deficiencies he found, such as leaky ceilings and faulty doors.

Williams specifically noted a security gate inside the school that won’t roll down.

“We have four of these, but only three work,” he told the board members.

Williams brought the board members into a number of classrooms. In one room, a few board members pointed out a low-hanging light fixture that looked like it could fall at any moment.

The board members looked all around the school’s interior to spot any further blemishes.

Teri Bergeron, a board member for the past three years, snapped photographs with her camera and took notes in a notebook while walking around Port Allen High.

Bergeron, a Port Allen High alumna, said the board would not have a clear picture of the inadequacies without taking Saturday’s tour.

“It’s the first time this board has been on a school tour all together,” she said. “They did it several years ago. We just felt like there was a need to do it again and find out what needs to be replaced.”

Bergeron also said the board members were reviewing safety features at all the schools in light of the elementary school shooting Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn.

The board voted Jan. 16 to let Corona meet with West Baton Rouge law enforcement authorities to review school emergency procedures.

“This tour was actually planned before the school safety issue came up,” Bergeron said. “But that’s what we’re also assessing — the doors that lock and the doors that don’t lock. We noticed most of the doors in all of the schools all lock from the outside. That’s one of the big things that they’re looking at.”

Corona said that while the board members were looking for any safety deficiencies they could find, Saturday’s tour wasn’t primarily about safety.

“It’s so the board can have an opportunity to see our physical facility, and they can make notes and give us comments on what they think needs to happen next, if anything,” Corona said.

Atley Walker, vice president of the School Board, said he had gone on similar tours while serving on the board during the past 10 years.

“We do it periodically to make sure that we don’t have oversights in reference to school upkeep and safety,” Walker said.

Principal Williams said in an interview after the tour that he tried to show the board members “some eyesores” that need fixing.

“I showed them some things that are really unsightly, some of the things that kids need to have repaired that we just can’t do them here, we need help with it,” he said.

Williams also said he thinks it’s important to have all the School Board members visit the schools as a group.

“You might get one that visits every now and then, but to get all of them at one time, it gets the point across to all of them at the same time,” Williams said. “It’s really, really big.”