Rebuilding school could help rebuild Johnson Bayou community

By By Nichole Osinski / American Press

CAMERON — Students, teachers and community members on Tuesday broke ground for a new Johnson Bayou High School. The old one was first damaged

by Hurricane Rita and then destroyed by Hurricane Ike.

“This is the last piece of the plan to put this school in a permanent facility, and it’s certainly a testament to the support

of the community,” said Cameron Parish School Superintendent Stephanie Rodrigue.

“Johnson Bayou High School has a very long tradition of excellence in a number of areas ... so we’re very pleased to be able to have a perfect environment for that to continue and to grow.”

The new facility, which will cover more than 58,000 square feet, will cost $16.7 million and take about 22 months to complete.

Bessette Development Corp. of Lake Charles is the general contractor.

The old school was renovated in the early 2000s. But it was heavily damaged in 2005 when Hurricane Rita, a Category 3 storm,

tore through Cameron Parish. The school was repaired, but in 2008 the storm surge from Hurricane Ike destroyed it.

Work on the new school will begin in March, said Tobie Hodgkinds, president of Bessette Development Corp., which won the bid

for the project in December.

The school district will spend about a million dollars on the project; the National Flood Insurance Program will provide about

$500,000; and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover the remaining costs, said Mike Womack, a FEMA adviser.

About 70 students attend the school,

which serves grades pre-K through 12, and Rodrigue said she hopes to see

enrollment increase

with the construction of the new building.

Cameron Parish School Board President Marsha Trahan said the board had been committed to not only rebuilding the school but

making sure students have a building that lasts.

“The hope for the school is to have more families move back once the school is up and running,” Trahan said. “We just want

to fill it and bring the community back and provide the kids with a good education right here at home.”