BAKER — The Baker School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to borrow $6 million for rebuilding Baker High School, which was damaged during the August 2016 flood.
The school board also approved a five-year strategic plan and the creation of a new administrative position.
Since the flood, Baker High students have been housed at Baker Middle with the middle school students occupying Bakerfield Elementary’s campus, and the Bakerfield students sharing classrooms with Baker Heights.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved $182,000 for temporary classrooms to handle the overflow at Baker Heights.
If approved by the State Bond Commission, the new funds through the Louisiana Local Government Environmental Facilities and Community Development Authority would cover the amount of the Baker High renovation that will not be reimbursed by FEMA and the district’s insurance, Superintendent Herman Brister said.
Last month, Brister announced the budget for the work on Baker High had been cut from $22.7 to $14 million, due to lower-than-expected reimbursement funds from FEMA.
The $14 million estimate does not include $338,000 for flood damage to Baker Heights Elementary, $1 million for the architect’s fee for the design of the new Baker High, and $1 million to be paid to Tillage Construction for overseeing the work, as well as other expenses.
The district previously borrowed $12 million; however, most of those funds didn’t represent permanent debt, Brister said Tuesday.
He said the district borrowed the initial money expecting to repay it as soon as the school district received reimbursement from FEMA or insurance.
The district expects to incur longer-term debt for the new money, purchasing bonds it can repay over 20 years with a fixed interest rate of 6 percent per year or a variable rate not to exceed 8 percent per year.
The State Bond Commission is expected to consider the matter in January, he said.
If the commission allows the debt, the bidding process can then begin for the work on Baker High.
Only four of the current buildings on the Baker High campus will be retained under a preliminary restoration plan Tillage Construction and BJL Construction presented to the School Board last month.
Declining enrollment in the school is the reason for the change, Brian LaFleur of BJL said at that time.
In other business Tuesday, the board approved a five-year strategic plan for 2017 through 2022.
“Now all we have to do is meet the benchmarks,” Brister said.
The goals for Baker schools are broken down in the document to the areas of teaching and learning, stakeholder engagement, organizational effectiveness, and a premier workforce.
But the plan specifically calls for raising the district’s performance score from 56.5 to 84.5 by 2022, with similar goals for each of the five schools in the district.
The individual Baker schools were exempt from state assessment for 2016-17 due to the impact of the flooding; however, the district as a whole dropped 9.2 points, maintaining its D letter grade.
The highest scoring school in the district for 2015-16 was Park Ridge Academic Magnet, with 84.6 and the lowest was Baker Middle, at 35.5, an F.
Before finalizing the document, which took a year and a half to complete, school officials vetted it with the school board and the community, Brister said.
Also on Tuesday, the school board approved the addition of a new position of supervisor of accountability. The position is actually a reclassification of an existing position, but will result in a new hire since the person currently occupying it is retiring, Brister said
The new supervisor of accountability will monitor the district’s progress on the strategic plan, which focuses heavily on state accountability measures.