DONALDSONVILLE — With a 6-5 vote, the Ascension Parish School Board this week voted to keep Donaldsonville Primary at its longtime location and move ahead with planned renovations for the school.
In board committee meetings for the past several weeks, board member Robyn Penn Delaney had pushed for a new location for the elementary school, saying its location on La. 3089, about a mile from CF Industries, was too close to the plant, in the event of an accident at the plant.
The issue came to a vote at the School Board meeting Tuesday.
Voting to keep the school at the location it’s been since 1987 were board members John Murphy, Kerry Diez, Lorraine Wimberly, Louis Lambert, Troy Gautreau and Patricia Russo.
Voting against the motion were Delaney, Julie Blouin, Scott Duplechein, Taft Kleinpeter and Shawn Sevario.
Before the vote, two Donaldsonville-area residents, Bennie Jenkins and Sylvia Gipson, spoke in favor of a new location for the elementary school.
“If Donaldsonville Elementary was located on the east side, steps would already have been taken to move the school,” Jenkins said.
A third resident, Kerry Williams, said the school should remain where it’s been for almost 30 years.
“We’re not moving Donaldsonville Primary,” Williams said. “It’s not about politics.”
Wimberly, the board president, also read comments she had received from Donaldsonville residents concerned about moving the school.
“There are children that have lived here all their life that walk to school. Where are we going to put it?” one resident asked about a possible new location for the school.
Delaney had made an earlier substitute motion — to have the board’s planning and construction director, Chad Lynch, look for property for a new location for Donaldsonville Primary — that failed Tuesday.
The votes split once again, this time 5 yes to 6 no. Voting for the property search, in addition to Delaney, were Duplechein, Lambert, Kleinpeter and Sevario.
Voting against it were Murphy, Diez, Wimberly, Gautreau, Blouin and Russo.
The discussions came as the School Board looks at a possible election date of April 2, 2016, to bring a bond proposal to voters. The board will be fine-tuning the list of school construction projects that would be funded by the bond issue, if passed.
Also on Tuesday, the School Board voted not to raise health insurance premium rates for employees and retirees but to make some increases in the deductibles to help close an estimated $7.8 million deficit the board’s health insurance plan faced this fall.
Increased costs to the plan have come, in large part, from a significant increase of dependents added to employee coverage, Len Fontaine, employee benefits specialist, has told the board.
Dependent membership has increased about 53 percent since 2005, Fontaine said.
With no increase in employee premium rates, the School Board will absorb $2.6 million that would have been raised by a premium hike, paying that cost out of a $10 million surplus for the fiscal year ending June 30.
Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.
Editor’s Note: This story was changed on Aug. 5 to correct the vote on the board’s substitute motion.