By Heidi R. Kinchen
Florida Parishes bureau
September 25, 2012
Livingston Parish school officials are hoping for an October move-in date for the new Live Oak High School campus in Watson but acknowledge it could be November before the new campus opens.
Hurricane Isaac set back construction after the slow-moving storm dropped 9.4 inches of rain over the Denham Springs area, including the unincorporated community of Watson, according to the National Weather Service.
The water brought a halt to pavement projects and made it difficult to navigate the campus for several days, School Board member Kellee Hennessy Dickerson said.
The storm also made it difficult for out-of-town subcontractors to find hotel rooms in the area, she said.
“The silver lining is the beautiful weather we’re having now,” Dickerson said Friday. “They’re catching up and getting so much done.”
Crews were on campus Friday, finishing the floors, installing science lab equipment and taking deliveries of desks, chairs and other classroom furnishings, she said. Next, concrete parking will go down and walkway overheads will go up, she said.
Construction at the $27 million, 211,255-square-foot facility has met with a number of setbacks, including a major theft of copper and tools from the construction site in January and a string of wet weather prior to Isaac. Officials are tentatively aiming for a move-in date at the end of October, Superintendent Bill Spear said.
If the weather does not cooperate, however, the transition might be closer to Thanksgiving, Dickerson said.
“I’m always gun shy to give dates because so much of it is outside our control,” she said. “But we’re still within the contract date, which, with rain days calculated in, would be sometime in January or February.
“My heart breaks, especially for the seniors,” Dickerson said. “These kids and staff, administration and teachers have waited forever for this,” Dickerson said.
The 40-acre campus will expand capacity for a district bursting at the seams with seven main buildings and an athletics facility.
Preliminary enrollment figures for the parish school system indicate 25,361 students this fall, an increase of about 575 students from last school year. The Live Oak campus is designed to house 1,700 students.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Dickerson said. “Not just with all the extra room they’ll have, but also the technology they’ll have at their fingertips.”
A ProStart kitchen will give students the means to earn a certification for course credit at culinary schools and provide income opportunities for the school through evening cooking classes for the community, she said.
The athletics facility, with its top-quality track and turf football field, also will provide opportunities to recoup high up-front costs by hosting state track meets and other sporting events, she said.
Trimming costs has meant smaller construction crews and a more limited ability to play catchup, but it also has allowed extra funding in the construction budget to be directed to the sports facility, Dickerson said.
The district saved more than $660,000 that had been designated for a turn lane into campus from La. 16 when Parish President Layton Ricks, state Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, and Parish Councilman Jim Norred worked out a deal with the state Department of Transportation and Development to have the parish take a Watson road into the parish maintenance system in exchange for DOTD picking up the tab for the turn lane, she said.
“When you have a facility like this, people will want to stay around and be part of the program,” Dickerson said. “It really brings a community together.”