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Kevin Morrison, right, an installer with Morgan Signs, takes down the last letters naming the former Lee High School on the 'monument sign' in front of the school, now named Liberty High School, early Monday, Aug. 3, 2020. Morgan Signs is a subcontractor to the general contractor CLH Builders, whose President Chris Hitchens, left, said the work started at about 7 a.m. Monday morning.

Renaming Lee High to Liberty High is now estimated to cost about $170,000 — at least $80,000 less than previous estimates.

Superintendent Leslie Brown announced the lower estimate Thursday night at an East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting. Brown credited CSRS/Tillage Program Management, the school system’s construction management firm, for finding ways to reduce the expense.

“They went in and really scrubbed everything,” Brown said.

The new estimate breaks down to about $60,000 for athletic uniforms, $17,000 for interior signage and $93,000 for exterior signage.

Marcus Williams, program director, said the big savings comes from recovering the vinyl wallpaper that now says Lee with new wallpaper saying Liberty. The earlier plan was to tear down the wall coverings and replace them, a much more expensive process, Williams said.

Opened in 1959 as Robert E. Lee High, after the Confederate general, the school’s name has been a flashpoint for years, with periodic, and until recently unsuccessful, efforts to change it. In 2005, the school system changed the mascot from the Rebels to the Patriots. In 2016, the “Robert E.” was excised from the school’s name, but Lee High was preserved.

The Confederate general’s name finally was jettisoned in full in favor of Liberty High on July 16 against a backdrop of civil rights protests nationwide prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

An ongoing private fundraising effort to help pay for the renaming has raised more than $55,000. Those are largely two donations, a $5,000 donation from CSRS and $50,000 from the nonprofit group New Schools for Baton Rouge.

Williams said he is preparing a package of work to present to the board in the near future. He said, once approved, the renaming will take about three to four months to complete.

Part of the renaming cost is the $60,000 for new sports uniforms. They are replacing uniforms that students at the high school previously raised money on their own to purchase.

Also on Thursday, Brown announced she’s adding more instructional time to this semester. So Sept. 16, which is currently slated to be a half day, will be a full day of instruction. Also, Oct. 9, a day set aside at present for teacher training, will become a full regular school day as well.

The move was prompted in part by the decision to start the new school year for students on Aug. 10, rather than Aug. 6, as well as the desire for some principals to have more classroom time to catch kids up. She said it’s not connected to the school system decision to offer limited virtual instruction last week when many other schools shut down completely due to hurricanes Marco and Laura.

“It actually gives a little bit more than the minimum number of instructional minutes that we need,” Brown said.


Email Charles Lussier at clussier@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.