WBR new schools superintendent signs contract, begins Aug. 1 _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON --West Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent Wesley Watts.

PORT ALLEN — The West Baton Rouge Parish School Board began cementing plans for its comprehensive list of building projects by giving schools Superintendent Wesley Watts the go-ahead to assemble a selection committee to vet architects. 

Watts on Wednesday revealed he also plans to make recommendations to the board next month regarding the hiring of a financial adviser and a project manager who will each oversee different aspects of the district's construction plans.

The financial adviser will specifically deal with the $90-million bond issue funding the slate of projects, which include the construction of two new schools. 

"With a bond issue of this magnitude, you have to have a financial adviser," said board President Jason Manola.

The project manager will serve as the board's representative for the construction and design work. 

Voters approved the bond issue in December, with the bond to be repaid over 20 years through property taxes.

"We have made a commitment to the community that we're going to build what we said we're going to build," Watts said. 

Watts has promised to pull together an architect selection committee made up of school district administrators and at least two community members. That committee will make recommendations to the full School Board, which will make the final decisions on which architects to hire. 

"We'll have to hire several," Watts said. "Some projects will of course get lumped together." 

The installation of new heating and cooling systems at Port Allen elementary and middle schools will be the first project the district tackles. 

The most expensive is the construction of a new high school in Brusly and a new school in Erwinville that will house Head Start through eighth-grade students in the northern part of the parish. The construction costs are estimated at $40 million and $20 million, respectively.

The new schools will help the district address overcrowding issues and discontinue the use of temporary buildings — commonly referred to as T-buildings.

Also on tap over the next two years are upgrades to improve traffic flow at Port Allen Elementary and other schools; building a multipurpose center at Cohn Elementary; providing facilities for the district's new and expanding enrichment programs; and making improvements to the Brusly High school building, which will become the new middle school once construction is complete on the new high school campus. 

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