LIVINGSTON — Livingston Parish School Superintendent Joe Murphy announced the district has been awarded more than $57 million in federal funds to rebuild those school campuses that were substantially damaged during the 2016 flood, a news release said.
He said the district will receive $51.8 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and another $5.4 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, through the Community Development Block Grant program, to build enlarged and much improved campuses for Denham Springs Elementary, Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High.
“I want to thank U.S. Congressman Garret Graves and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy for their leadership and assistance with securing this funding for our system. Much credit goes to them for their efforts to reduce the National Flood Insurance Program penalty against our schools. That action alone saved our district $17 million,” Murphy said.
Murphy said FEMA’s standing policy is to assess a $500,000 penalty on every building that was not insured at the time of the flood. Most school campuses in the parish have multiple buildings on site. Such a formula would have escalated the district’s overall penalty to $21 million. However, the Louisiana congressional delegation successfully pushed for FEMA to only assess the $500,000 penalty against each campus, reducing the overall cost to $4 million.
The district, Murphy said, will be able to replace the flooded campuses with improved facilities, and not simply “build back” what was once there, thanks to the Public Assistance Alternative Procedure Program for Permanent Work, which was approved with the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013.
“This provision allows us to receive a consolidated grant that the district can more effectively distribute on the construction projects, allowing us to redesign these campuses to accommodate 21st century learning; otherwise, we would have been limited in our spending flexibility and obligated to return the buildings to their previous status,” Murphy said.
“While this has been a long arduous journey for our system, it has proven to be most productive. Our newly rebuilt schools will provide better learning environments for our students, and they will be built at a larger capacity to manage growing enrollments in the Denham Springs area,” he said.
Murphy said the old Denham Springs Elementary campus occupied approximately 58,500 square feet. The new two-story structure will measure 80,700 square feet, and it will be equipped with modern technology for greater interactive learning, more efficient lighting and utilities, and house common areas that are better designed for student engagement.
The new Southside campus will house both the elementary and junior high schools. The combined space of the two previously existing campuses was 148,000 square feet. The new combined campus will occupy more than 184,000 square feet. The new facilities will be located at the site of the old Southside Junior High School. The vacated property previously occupied by Southside Elementary is now home to the district’s STEM & Robotics Center.
“These campuses will be larger, fully code compliant, more efficient and better equipped for learning inside and outside the classroom. These facilities are designed with continuous learning as a focus,” Murphy said. “We are excited about what these facilities will mean for our system and the Denham Springs community, and we are most grateful that the federal funding will allow us to cover most of the cost.”
Murphy said the Denham Springs Elementary campus is in Phase 1 of construction. Contractors are doing groundwork and site work for drainage. He said the district expects to receive construction bids for the new Southside campus later this month, with a timeline for the board to accept a final bid by the middle of July.