Board warned of Iberia school kitchen renovation costs

Iberia Parish School Superintendent Dale Henderson warned the School Board on Wednesday that the cost of renovations to the kitchen at Pesson Elementary School is likely to be higher than originally projected to meet regulatory requirements.

“Be prepared,” Henderson told board members. “It’s going to be hard to stay within the budget. You’re dealing with a lot of regulatory institutions. Any time you do renovation work, you’re going to have issues.”

In an interview after the meeting, Henderson said making the improvement to the 30-plus-year-old building will require knocking down a wall, as well as possible electrical rewiring and plumbing upgrades. He said he is hopeful the project can be done for less than $400,000.

Board member Robbie LeBlanc said renovations to an existing structure, especially one that handles the preparation and distribution of food, sometimes runs up against changed standards. What was acceptable 30 years ago no longer meets current safety standards, he noted.

“The Board of Health is having fun with this one,” Architect Harry Lopez said. “The cost goes up.”

School officials did not have any cost estimates available for the renovation work late Wednesday.

The board unanimously approved a bid schedule for both the minor renovations to the kitchen in Pesson Elementary School and for electric security doors to be installed in Jeanerette Elementary School. The board authorized school administrators to advertise for bids for the projects, which are scheduled to be received May 8 and awarded May 22.

In other business Wednesday:

SCHOOLS HONORED: The School Board recognized three of the system’s schools for being selected as “Top Gain Schools” by the Louisiana Department of Education.

New Iberia Senior High School, Delcambre High School, and Delcambre Elementary School each will receive an award of $8,454 to be spent on “educational purposes” as a result of either meeting or exceeding their growth targets for student achievement scores.

“It takes everyone to make sure we continue to make progress as a school system,” Henderson said.

LITERACY PROMOTED: United Way of Iberia Executive Director Corleen Rouly had more than gently used books to offer during the annual “Day of Literacy” board presentation. Donated books were collected to be distributed to schools as usual, and an additional $1,280 in checks was donated to buy new books.

“I think you can get more than 10 books for this, right?” Rouly asked. “We all understand how important it is to instill a love for reading.”

NEW MEMBER SWORN IN: Thomas Jolivet was sworn in as the newest board member to represent District 4. The position was vacated by Raymond “Shoe-do” Lewis. Zebeloun Simon was appointed by the Board to fill the slot until the April 6 election, which Jolivet won.

Jolivet said he plans to make his contributions to the Board, but not by emulating either of his predecessors.

“I walk in my own shoes,” Jolivet said.

The next regular board meeting will be Wednesday.