Ascension board asks schools to prioritize needs

The Ascension Parish School Board hopes to create a parishwide strategic plan and streamline its facility improvements for athletics at the parish’s four high schools.

The board’s Athletic Committee on Tuesday reviewed the current facility requests from the athletics departments at Donaldsonville, Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant high schools.

The requests range from small improvements that can be handled by the school district’s Maintenance Department to major capital improvements that will need funding from outside sources.

Jamie Bourgeois, the committee chairman, asked that the schools prioritize their needs and find out the costs associated with the projects before coming back before the board.

Among the big-ticket items requested by schools were centrally located gymnastics facilities and an Olympic-sized swimming pool for the high schools to share for practice and meets, artificial turf at the three high schools on the parish’s east bank and the construction of a new basketball and volleyball gymnasium at Donaldsonville High School.

Dutchtown High School’s top priority was expanding its existing weight room facility, and school officials also requested an expansion of the school’s football locker room.

St. Amant High School, which submitted by far the most requests, asked to convert its softball field to artificial turf as well as move its football stadium, known as “The Pit,” from St. Amant Middle School to the high school campus.

David Alexander, the district’s director of high schools, said the requests are “lists in progress” that essentially serve as two- and five-year facilities plans.

“We did this about two years ago and really covered some ground,” Alexander said.

“We need to know what’s the highest priorities at the schools and build that into the budget,” Superintendent Patrice Pujol said.

School Board President Troy Gautreau said the board needs to take a long-term look at all of its high school athletics facilities and make sure they are consistent across the district.

“If we do spend big dollars — or any dollars — it should be consistent with an overall strategy,” Gautreau said.

The committee also discussed a new data collection plan in which each high school’s athletics program personnel will collect college and career readiness data for their athletes to show the benefits of participation in sports.

The data monitored will be ACT and graduation exam scores, college and Advanced Placement credits earned in high school, athletes earning academic and Taylor Opportunity Program for Students scholarships, and the overall graduation rate of each program.