PORT ALLEN — The fate of West Baton Rouge Parish’s first predominately black school during the days of segregation took another bittersweet step Wednesday night when the School Board accepted a $72,000 bid to have the derelict campus bulldozed within the next 45 days.
The board’s action comes two months after the West Baton Rouge Museum announced plans to salvage several items from the historic buildings to be used in an exhibit on the school’s significant role in education in the parish. The school district also intends to erect a marker at the site after the buildings are torn down.
Cohn High offered a secondary education to black children between 1949 and 1969.
The School Board unanimously accepted a bid from ARC Abatement for $72,219 to tear down the campus, located in the 800 block of North 14th Street in Port Allen.
Jeff Kershaw, the district’s supervisor of maintenance, said crews will first perform asbestos abatement before demolishing “old” Cohn High. The process is expected to take 45 days.
Schools Superintendent Wesley Watts addressed concerns from the board that the demolition could disrupt classes at Cohn Elementary, which neighbors the dilapidated high school campus. Watts said he has already had several conversations with the principal of the elementary school
“If there is an issue with the noise, we’ll move doing this until after hours; anything to protect those kids,” Watts said.
The School Board decided in April to tear down the high school campus after years of complaints that it had become an eyesore and likely a setting for illegal activity since its closure.
Also on Wednesday, the School Board approved the district’s $50 million 2014-15 fiscal year budget.
Expenditures include an $830 across-the-board pay raise for all full-time employees and prorated pay increases for part-time workers.
According to Watt’s budget message, the school system also set aside more than $400,000 to purchase new school desks, acquire a new storage building for the central office, pay for the demolition of “old” Cohn High School and make second-year payments on the bond that financed the expansion at Brusly Elementary.
The district expects to see an 11 percent increase in revenues compared to last year, due to the $1.3 million expansion at Dow Chemical Company and other business growth throughout the parish.
The district is set to receive about $13 million in per pupil state aid and another $7.2 million in federal funds.
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