WBR School Board to demolish historic Cohn High School buildings

The West Baton Rouge Parish School Board made its first steps Wednesday toward demolishing the old Cohn High School campus, authorizing school district officials to begin the bidding process to tear down the historic buildings.

The board’s action comes after years of complaints that the campus, closed for several decades, had become an eyesore and likely a setting for illegal activity.

“It needs to be torn down,” Superintendent David Corona said about the derelict buildings before Wednesday night’s meeting. “No one in the community wanted to have any illegal activity taking place there. But the board is sensitive to the history of Cohn High and its importance to the community.”

Cohn High, built in 1949 along North 14th Street in Port Allen, was the city’s first black K-12 public school during the days of segregation.

Members of the Cohn High Alumni Association attended the School Board meeting in a show of support for the demolition. The group also urged the School Board to keep them in the loop on any future plans for the site.

“This is a touching moment, to see what’s about to happen,” said Wilhemenia Decuir, a 1955 graduate of the school. “We know it’s good for the community. We just hope as you move forward you will not forget Cohn High School.”

Board President Jason Manola said the school district intends to erect a marker at the site after the buildings are torn down.

In an unrelated matter, the School Board unanimously adopted the Copsync911 Alert System, which will be installed at all of the parish’s public schools.

The threat alert system will be installed on the computers of all faculty and staff members at the district’s 10 campuses to serve as virtual panic buttons in case of severe threats.

The computer program provides for an immediate connection to local law enforcement by sending distress signals to the five closest law enforcement officers after a staff member activates the distress signal. The software also provides law enforcement officials with a diagram of the school to aid in their response.

Corona said West Baton Rouge Parish is the first school district in the state to install the software, which has been popular in parts of Texas.

The software will be installed this summer and is expected to be operational for the 2014-15 school year. Copsync911 will cost the district approximately $32,000 to implement in its first year and an additional $15,000 annually.

“This is money well spent in my opinion,” Corona said. “Based on all the unfortunate events that have been taking place at schools recently, the board realized that time is of the essence to eliminate a threat on campus. The sooner you can get law enforcement on campus when you have an active shooter, the more lives you will save.”