The ongoing restoration and rebuilding of Glen Oaks High School, badly damaged in the August 2016 floods, could cost less than half what was estimated in October, a result of fewer students, not elevating the property and a reworking of plans in light of less-than-anticipated federal flood reimbursement money.
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board is scheduled to vote Thursday on the project, but it’s all still a work in progress.
Last week, Marcus Williams, program director with CSRS/Tillage Construction, presented the School Board with a three-phase plan for permanently restoring the north Baton Rouge high school. Phase 1 would be complete by August of this year, Phase 2 by August 2019, and Phase 3’s completion date is undetermined.
When asked to peg the overall cost, Williams offered a tentative estimate of up to $22 million.
In an email Monday to The Advocate, Williams said the numbers are still being worked on.
“There are still a lot of moving parts, and this has not been approved yet,” Williams said. “The numbers we will present on Thursday will be the most accurate.”
Fully restoring and rebuilding Glen Oaks High School, destroyed in the 2016 August flood, could cost as much as $45 million and that price tag…
On Oct. 17, CSRS/Tillage Construction, the partnership that oversees most public school construction work in Baton Rouge, reported to the board that the remaining work at Glen Oaks High could cost as much as $45 million, a number so big that Superintendent Warren Drake quickly disavowed it.
By last week, Williams halved that figure in a report to the board, based on changes during that three-month interval.
In October, the plan was to close nearby North Banks Middle, which has 128 students, and merge it with Glen Oaks High, at 6650 Cedar Grove Drive, and its 529 students. The combined enrollment would be about 660 students. Both schools are among the smallest public middle and high schools in town.
That proposed merger was not in the plan Williams presented last week, but it’s not dead.
Associate Superintendent Ben Necaise said Monday there’s still an internal debate about what to do with North Banks. Whether the middle school is merged with Glen Oaks High depends on the “final funding allocations” for the high school restoration work and whether there are better alternatives for North Banks, he said.
“We should have a better idea in the next month,” Necaise said.
The plan presented last week envisions a Glen Oaks High School with between 400 and 500 students. Pre-flood, Glen Oaks had a maximum capacity of 1,151 students. At its mid-'90s peak, the school enrolled more than 1,400 students.
The project costs are down partly because the school system had anticipated spending additional money to elevate any newly constructed buildings. But Williams said Monday such elevation is unnecessary.
“(The high school) is not in a flood zone, and new construction on campus does not need to be raised,” he said.
Less-than-expected federal reimbursement is another factor.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has reimbursed the parish school system $6.6 million in restoration costs so far at Glen Oaks High. That includes partial repairs and new temporary buildings that allowed Glen Oaks High students to return to the campus last summer.
School system officials had hoped for one more big check from FEMA to cover the remaining work at the high school. At one point, they were hoping for as much as $21 million. In October, the school system lowered its expectations to $10 million tops. Just before Christmas FEMA finally settled on a much smaller number, $4.8 million. Williams said that number may end up a bit more or less depending on how construction bids come in.
The school system plans to bolster the project’s budget by redirecting $3 million worth of anticipated reimbursement money from the flooded Choctaw Center, an administrative office, to Glen Oaks High. The Choctaw Center, an old elementary school along Choctaw Road near Ardenwood Drive, would instead be demolished.
Where East Baton Rouge will find the rest of the money it will need for Glen Oaks High’s repairs is unclear. Williams told the School Board last week that the first two phases will likely require another $6 million to $8 million from undetermined sources, perhaps the school system’s general operating fund.
Phase 1, which would start as soon as possible, could involve major repairs to five buildings, demolition of four more, removal of several temporary buildings and a variety of improvements to six additional buildings. Phase 2, which would start later this year, calls for a new combination administrative-media center, new commons building with additional classrooms, a cafeteria addition and renovations to the auditorium and gym.
Williams said Monday the scope and sequence of work in all three phases remain in flux.
“We need a few more days to nail it down,” he said.
East Baton Rouge Parish school officials have trimmed their school construction wish list for the next decade by $132 million as they prepare …
Phase 3 would be added to a long list of construction projects to be undertaken over the next decade. On April 29, voters are likely to be asked to renew a 1-cent sales tax that pays for school construction. What’s included, and what’s not included, in that construction list is still being hotly debated and won’t be finalized until the board meets on Feb. 22.
If voters renew the sales tax, an estimated $417 million would be available for construction projects between 2019 and 2029. Williams said he expects Phase 3 for Glen Oaks High will cost millions, but less than $10 million. Phase 3 could include renovations to two more buildings, a new field house, new track, new outdoor basketball courts as well as a new outdoor teaching area.