[StBernard] St. Bernard schools get $60 million in new federal funds for post-Katrina building

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Wed May 2 10:14:51 EDT 2012

St. Bernard schools get $60 million in new federal funds for post-Katrina

Published: Tuesday, May 01, 2012, 3:12 PM Updated: Tuesday, May 01,
2012, 3:38 PM

By Bruce Alpert, Times-Picayune

WASHINGTON _- Ending a seven-year battle, the Federal Emergency Management
Agency agreed Tuesday to provide an additional $60 million in funding for
St. Bernard Parish to rebuild school facilities damaged or destroyed by
Hurricane Katrina.

The $60 million will be added to $88 million previously obligated, but not
yet released, and provides a $148.3 million "lump sum" financing the school
district requested for nine separate projects.

Tuesday's FEMA announcement bring total federal assistance for St. Bernard
schools to $500 million, according to the agency.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in 2008 convinced her congressional colleagues
and the Bush administration that the best way to help communities devastated
by Hurricane Katrina was not simply to approve disaster payments project by
project, but rather allow coordinated lump-sum funding for a series of

Her legislation allowed FEMA to approve funding for replacement facilities,
updated to reflect current educational standards and technology, not just
for the rebuilding of carbon copies of existing schools. It also allowed the
agency to reduce penalties for agencies deemed not to have in place
sufficient flood insurance coverage.

"This funding is wonderful news for St. Bernard Parish," Landrieu said. "By
providing a lump sum payment and reduced penalties, we are empowering our
school districts to rebuild smarter and stronger than before."

The lump-sum funding announcement represents a change for FEMA, which
previously funded projects on a building-by-building basis, according to
Landrieu's office.

St. Bernard Schools Superintendent Doris Voitier said that FEMA's funding
announcement enables the district to "rebuild as we see fit so we can serve
the children in our communities."

Voitier said that projects moving forward include a new elementary school,
slated to open in August, a three-phrase renovation of Chalmette High
School, and conversion of the Maumus building in Arabi into a science
center, planetarium and small-scale Hurricane Katrina museum.

The funding announcement by FEMA marks a major victory for Voitier, who
argued that the district needed to build schools that served the
post-Katrina student population. Rather than simply rebuild to match
facilities that operated before the hurricane, Voitier said the best way to
serve the communities served by St. Bernard schools was to give the
community flexibility to choose different sites for school buildings and to
build facilities that reflected current educational standards and provided
up-to-date technology.

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