A vote by the Pointe Coupee Parish School Board last week paved the way for construction of a new central office to replace the “temporary” facility it has occupied for more than 12 years.
The new facility will be on the site of the old LaBarre Elementary School, a shuttered facility which is set to be demolished.
It will face La. 1 and will occupy property in front of the STEM Magnet Academy of Pointe Coupee.
The measure passed 8-0. Board member Anita LeJeune was absent due to an illness in her family.
The board moved forward on the plan after the state Bond Commission approved $2.4 million in Priority 5 funding, which it will move into the Priority 1 coffer, which already has $2 million.
The state approved the funds to replace the central office destroyed during Hurricane Gustav in August 2008.
The extensive flood damage forced relocation of the central office to Napoleon Street.
The funds allocated for the project can only be used to refurbish the Napoleon Street facility or to build a new office building.
The move to LaBarre will prove more beneficial than remaining at the current site, School Superintendent Kim Canezaro said.
“In our new facility, we can house all of our central office employees,” she said.
“If we way here, we will remain disjointed in multiple buildings, and if we have to repair something down the line, that will be new money we would have to spend.”
In what Canezaro described as “a not-so-scientific” survey of central office employees, 11 members want to move, nine want to stay and two are undecided.
Board member Chad Aguillard was tepid about the plan to relocate.
“I’m having a tough time wanting to agree with taking the School Board operations out of New Roads, and that’s how I feel,” he said.
“I feel that when we have meetings, this is a more populated area and easier for people to get here as opposed to driving to LaBarre.”
The new building would have all central office employees in the same building and allow for a smoother operation, Canezaro replied.
“It would serve us well to have all of the central office staff in one building, whereas right now we have one group in another building and another group of employees working in a warehouse,” she said.
“As it stands now, we’re not a cohesive unit.”
A central office in front of STEM would still allow for a new school adjacent to the academy, either between the central office and STEM campus, or behind the STEM, Canezaro said.
Board President Tom Nelson, who has served nearly 50 years on the School Board, said he also has reservations about leaving New Roads.
He said he believes it would create greater traffic congestion at the LaBarre site.
Assistant Superintendent Karla Jack also expressed apprehension about the move to LaBarre.
“I was one of the nine who opposed, and I believe the central office should remain in the parish seat,” she said. “I know a lot of parents struggle with transportation, and it may be a little difficult to get them up the road.”
Board member Frank Aguillard said he does not believe relocation of the central office to LaBarre will hurt New Roads.
“We would still be buying supplies in New Roads and New Roads would benefit construction-wise because the majority of materials will be purchased locally,” he said.
“I worked hard to get the money from Priority 5 to Priority 1, and if you don’t want it, there are 63 other parishes that would take the money quickly.”
The maintenance facility would remain at the School Board property on Napoleon Street.
Plans and designs for the new facility will be rendered by architect David Mougeot, who hopes to have that work completed within the next six months.