After years of delays, demolition work soon could begin at a LaPlace elementary school that’s been closed since it sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Isaac in 2012.
Without discussion, the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board voted Thursday to award a $615,278 contract to ARC Abatement to demolish Lake Pontchartrain Elementary.
The Texas firm — which has an office in Baton Rouge — was among a dozen companies that submitted bids for the work. The School Board approved the ARC bid 8-0, with three members absent.
Lake Pontchartrain Elementary and East St. John High School in Reserve have been closed since being flooded during the 2012 storm.
Repairs at the high school, which include demolishing some areas of the campus as well as removing mold and cleaning the buildings, are in progress. The school’s heating and cooling systems are being upgraded, and the exteriors of two buildings are being replaced.
Plans call for Lake Pontchartrain Elementary to be demolished and a new elevated school built in its place. That project is expected to cost about $22.5 million.
Work at the two schools stalled initially due to a monetary shortfall and later as school officials bitterly disagreed over key decisions, including choosing a company to hire for the work.
But a new timeline has emerged. After the deal with ARC Abatement is signed, demolition at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary could begin next month, said Cindy Janecke, a project manager at All South Consulting Engineers. That phase of the work is expected to last 110 days.
Yeates and Yeates Architects, the architectural firm handling the project, is scheduled to present final design plans to the School Board in coming weeks, Janecke said. Construction plans are set to be finished this summer, and the work is due to go out to bid in July, she said.
Construction on the new school is expected to begin this fall, she said, with the school slated to open in the fall of 2017 — five years after Isaac hit.
Work at East St. John High is well underway, with the new brick façade being put in place and new windows installed. “It’s moving along very well,” Janecke said Thursday. That project is expected to finish in August. School officials are scheduled to walk through the building to inspect the work at the end of the month.
In addition to federal disaster relief, money to pay for the projects came from the proceeds of a bond issue that St. John voters approved last year. The bond issue, which will raise as much as $10.4 million — to be paid for from an existing 10-mill property tax — is intended to cover an expected gap between the available federal disaster money and the actual cost of rebuilding the schools.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.