Livingston — School officials in Livingston Parish on Thursday evening signed off on next year’s academic calendar, placing the first day of school on Aug. 4.
Administrators were prepared to defend the schedule and had researched average temperatures for dates throughout August in case anyone objected to the proposal. Parents and teachers in other parishes and states have confronted school boards over early August start dates because kids are riding buses and participating in sports in unsafe heat. Assistant Superintendant Rick Wentzel, however, has pointed out that historic temperatures have been relatively similar at the beginning of the month as they are closer to Labor Day.
The calender passed Thursday unanimously and without debate. Wentzel told the board that since he presented the proposed calendar last month, he received five emails expressing concern over the start date, including three that specifically mentioned heat. Others asked for a truncated Christmas break or a full week off for Mardi Gras, though no one addressed the board during Thursday’s meeting.
The 2016-17 calendar closely resembles the current year’s, in which classes began Aug. 7.
Under the schedule approved Thursday, students will attend classes until May 23, though they will have ample vacation time at Christmas, spring break, Thanksgiving and other holidays, plus an extra day off for next fall’s presidential election, since so many campuses double as voting precincts.
In other business, the School Board appointed Ziler and Associates as the architectural firm to design several campus expansions and a new elementary school in the Albany district.
Architect Jim Ziler said the proposed elementary school would include several features intended to keep long-term costs down, such as LED lighting, an energy-efficient HVAC system and low-maintenance exterior building materials.
School Board member Sid Kinchen said the campus will have a capacity of about 600 students, but there are plans to add space for 850 children after it opens.
Whether the designs presented Thursday will be realized is still up to the voters. The projects are dependent on the passage of a 43.5-mill property tax on district ballots April 9.
The millage would raise $13.4 million. Besides the new elementary school on La. 43 north of town, the district plans to build a gym at Albany Middle and an eight-classroom addition at Albany High, as well as renovate the library at Albany Upper Elementary.
Thursday, the board also accepted a $520,000 bid to expand the Southside Junior High gym.
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