The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board has decided to move forward with $300,000 in needed repairs at Pointe Coupee Central High as it negotiates with the state to pay a much larger repair bill to fix up the school.
The board is hoping the state’s Recovery School District will reimburse the local school district for the money it is spending and that it will pay for an additional $1.6 million for repairs needed since the RSD closed the school last year.
The $300,000 the board authorized to be spent while negotiations proceed is going toward replacement of the campus’ air conditioning and heating system. School officials said that has to be done before the campus can open in the fall as the district’s new proposed Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Arts Academy.
School officials said previously they’re prepared to take the RSD to court if necessary to pay for the school repairs, since RSD officials had promised the district the state would take care of the laundry list of repairs the district had pointed out to them before RSD handed off control of the campus back to the School Board.
“Our attorney is in negotiations with their attorney, and we’ve given them the line items we think they owe the school system,” board President Frank Aguillard said Friday. “Hopefully they’ll be getting with us soon. And I’m very hopefully we can work something out.”
RSD, which ran the school for six years, asked a U.S. District Court judge to return jurisdiction of the school to the school district after the state failed to improve the school’s academic performance.
Students who were attending Central High are now enrolled at Livonia High School.
The board voted Thursday night to begin the repair work on Central’s heating and cooling system after contractors were able to reduce the price from the more than $700,000 they had originally quoted to do the project.
The board is under pressure to have the campus operational at least by fall for its reopening as the proposed STEM Academy.
But several board members pointed out obstacles and vented their frustrations to School Superintendent Linda D’Amico at a meeting on Thursday after D’Amico revealed to the board several tweaks she made to her plans for Central High.
Some of those obstacles include obtaining the results of a community poll that circulated to the public last week, gauging the public’s interest in the STEM Academy, finding the certified teachers and administrators to work at the school and completing the repairs within the next few months.
“It all seems like a lot of details to work out in a short amount of time,” board member Brandon Bergeron told D’Amico. “It’s getting late. Finances are tight. This creates a lot of challenges.”
But the main hurdle is that the STEM proposal has yet to receive approval from the court and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
D’Amico said the judge had not set a status conference on the matter.
The superintendent has said the proposed program’s curriculum would be guided by Project Lead the Way, a nationwide nonprofit organization that helps school districts develop project-based science, technology, engineering and math programs.
But D’Amico was chided last week by several board members over changes she made to her proposal, including dropping the GPA requirement for acceptance to the program to 2.5 and opening enrollment to grades six through 12 instead of just six through nine grades.
“I thought when we approved this we said students would need a 3.0 GPA to get in,” board member Brandon Bergeron said during the meeting. “The purpose was to attract our best and brightest. A 2.5 is a little watered down from what we talked about.”
D’Amico told Bergeron she lowered the GPA requirement after their data showed more students would be eligible to attend if the bar was lowered a tad.
“We didn’t want to make it too unattainable,” she said.
Anita LeJeune expressed frustrations over the superintendent opening up spots to high school upperclassmen. She felt the program would have a better chance at success if the school district limited enrollment to sixth- through ninth-graders in its inaugural year.
“When the board votes on something, we expect those things to be followed,” she told D’Amico. “If it needs to be changed, we expect it to be brought back to the board.”
LeJeune added, “When this was first presented to us it was going to small but be good. Now it’s all totally different.”
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