[StBernard] Hurricane construction winding down, St. Bernard Parish students head back to school

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Aug 14 08:53:42 EDT 2012

Hurricane construction winding down, St. Bernard Parish students head back
to school

Published: Monday, August 13, 2012, 4:21 PM Updated: Monday, August 13,
2012, 5:09 PM

By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, The Times-Picayune

For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, St. Bernard Parish schools on
Monday opened with enough facilities to sustain the parish's aspired
regrowth. The reopening of Lacoste Elementary School in Chalmette brings the
school district's tally to 11 schools.

St. Bernard Parish School Superintendent Doris Voitier says the district
does not plan to add any additional schools. The new $25 million Lacoste
school, with its pre-Katrina name intact but now in a new location, welcomed
the first of its 800 students Monday, the first day of class in all the
parish's public schools.

The school previously resided across the street from Chalmette High, where
the new Ninth Grade Academy now stands, but it now sits a few blocks away at
the corner of Missouri Street and Corinne Avenue in Chalmette. The school
district purchased the former St. Mark Catholic church and school building
from the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Voitier said Lacoste should alleviate crowding in the Arabi, Chalmette and
Joseph Davies elementary schools.

Arabi Elementary School opened Monday with a new $4.3 gymnasium, and Davies
unveiled a $800,000 enclosed walkway connecting the school to its gym. Both
projects, along with the new Lacoste school, were entirely FEMA funded.

On Aug. 26, 2005, the district had about 8,800 preschool through 12th grade
students at 14 schools, including three high schools placed throughout the
parish that housed 2,300 students. The parish school board since has created
one central high school campus in Chalmette High and the new Ninth Grade
Academy and that main high school now houses about 1,600 of the district's
overall 6,800 students.

So while the total parish population remains about 40 percent less than
before Katrina, the student district now only houses about 22 percent less
than its pre-storm numbers.

In memory of the seventh anniversary of that fateful day, the parish School
Board is hosting a parish-wide "Day of Reflection" breakfast on Aug. 29 at
8:30 a.m. in the high school gymnasium at 1101 East Judge Perez Drive, often
still called the "Lacoste Campus" because it is where the original Lacoste
Elementary School once sat. About 500 people are anticipated. Tickets are
$10 and available by calling the School Board office at 504.301.2000.

Katrina-related renovations continue on some campuses. Chalmette High
currently is undergoing the first phase of a three-year, $40 million
FEMA-funded renovation project.

That first phase included the demolition in June of the existing band and
shop building. A two-story, 27,000-square-foot building will be erected in
its place and will house a new cafeteria and kitchen on the first floor and
10 classrooms on the second.

In addition to the new cafeteria building, the renovations will include a
new band and industrial arts building; 18 additional classrooms; mechanical,
electrical, plumbing and sprinkler system upgrades; new energy-efficient
windows; newly designed entryway and courtyard; and updated classrooms,
floors and ceilings.

And in separate projects totaling about $16.5 million, improvements to
athletic facilities already are nearly complete. The new football, baseball
and softball field houses will open for the upcoming season. A new softball
field currently under construction at the old rebel park is pushing to open
for the coming season.

Finally, the conversion of the Maumus Center, which will house a science
center, planetarium and small-scale Hurricane Katrina museum, is set to open
for bids next month.

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