BAKER — The School Board will begin reviewing designs and deciding whether to rebuild or renovate Baker High School later this month.
But it may take two years until students can return to the school.
The school took on water during the August flooding, and, since then, Baker High students have been housed at Baker Middle School, the middle school students are at Bakerfield Elementary, and Bakerfield and Baker Heights Elementary students are sharing a campus.
The school board has a contract with Tillage Construction to oversee the renovation of Baker High as well as any other damage remediation related to the flooding. Brian LaFleur, owner of BJL construction group, which is working with Tillage on the project, told the board Tuesday night that they have completed their assessment of Baker High and estimate it will be a $20 million project based on a combination of constructing new buildings and renovating existing ones; however, the school board will make the final decisions on which buildings to replace and which to rebuild.
The school district received approval from the state bond commission to borrow $12 million, most of which they should be able to repay using money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the district's own insurance company.
Architectural firms must submit design bids for the school board's consideration by May 18 and after that, the board will be in a position to make specific choices about whether buildings will be renovated or replaced.
FEMA has already approved three project worksheets that Tillage submitted consisting of $4.4 million for remediation of Baker High, $182,000 for relocation of Baker High students to the Baker Middle campus and mold remediation for Baker Heights at a cost of $338,000.
Tillage plans to seek FEMA approval for initial funding of the Baker High project by May 17 and the school board should select an architect by May 23. Design should take from May until January 2018, bidding from January to February 2018, and the construction phase should last from February 2018 until May 2019.
Baker High students should be able to return to campus by June 2019.
In response to a question from board member Shona Boxie, LaFleur said the timeline is as short as possible, but the exact amount of time needed for the whole project would depend on decisions the board makes about whether to build a new school or renovate existing buildings.
The board also voted unanimously to amend their contract with Tillage to include additional services related to grants management, interaction with FEMA and the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, and closing of the project, at a cost of $220,000.
The total contract with Tillage, including the amendment, is not to exceed $940,000.
Superintendent Herman Brister reported the school district has already received $3.17 million in disaster recovery reimbursements from FEMA for repairing facilities and replenishing equipment and supplies.
The school district has spent $3.33 million recovering from the flood, leaving a deficiency of $172,000.
FEMA should reimburse the school district $30,000 more, leaving $142,000 to be covered by the district's general fund.
In other business, the school board recognized the Baker High School Bands for receiving 20 plaques and trophies during the 2016-17 school year and performing in festivals including the Louisiana Concert Band Invitational as well as earning a superior rating at the Louisiana Music Educators Association State Festival.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was modified on Nov. 7, 2017, to correct the spelling of Brian LaFleur's name, which was incorrectly spelled as LaFleur, and the organization he represents. LaFleur owns BJL construction group, which is working with Tillage Construction on the school project. The Advocate regrets the errors.