Jeff Davis School Board chooses site for school

JENNINGS — The Jeff Davis Parish School Board’s Ward II Ad Hoc Committee chose a 20-acre site on La. 26 south as the primary site to build a new elementary school.

The committee failed to approve a separate motion from School Board members Jimmy Segura and Denise Perry to name Jennings Elementary School as a second location if plans for the La. 26 property do not work out.

School Board members Phillip Arceneaux and Donald Dees said they could not go along with the second location.

“The constituents I represent are looking for a school on the south side of town,” Arceneaux said. “If I vote on this, I’d be turning my back on them.”

The new school would consolidate James Ward Elementary and Jennings Elementary school.

Dees said many people on the south side believe they were promised a new school when a new Jennings HIgh School was approved in 2001. Naming Jennings Elementary School as a secondary location would cause problems, he said.

The site, which is located on the west side of La. 26 just before Racca Road, will have to be approved by the full school board at its Feb. 21 meeting.

The property will also have to be appraised with a buy-sale agreement approved by the board. Superintendent Kirk Credeur said the school board cannot pay more than the appraised value.

“We want the public to understand we are dedicated to building a beautiful, nice, safe environment for our students with no additional taxes or millage increases,” Credeur said

Jennings area voters are being asked to approve a 20-year, $29.5 million bond issue for construction of the new pre-K through sixth grade school on March 30.

The millage would cost property owners 13 mills.

Voters are also being asked to renew a 14-year, half-cent sales tax for Sales Tax District 1 for construction and improvements of Jennings schools. The tax is expected to generate $1.4 million a year.

“If the Jennings voters are amenable to continuing their current half-cent sales tax dedicated to school improvement and their current 13 mill school bond property assessment into the future, we can generate enough revenue to build a new pre-K through 6th grade elementary campus and clean up and demolish any remaining unused properties,” Credeur said. “All of this can be accomplished at no increased tax rate to the voters in the Jennings school district.”

A new school would be designed to meet the latest in school safety, learning and efficiencies to reduce maintenance costs associated with the two aging schools, he said. It would also allow the school board to remove students from temporary buildings.

“I am excited to be able to do this without additional taxes for anyone,” School Board member Jimmy Segura said.

The La. 26 property was among three locations considered for the new school. Other locations included the current Jennings Elementary School site and the Zigler property located on Louise Street across from the former Jennings Guest House. Those locations presented concerns for increased traffic, narrow streets and other safety issues according to architect Steve Hotard.

The majority of the nearly 1,200 students attending the new school would have to be picked up or ride buses which would triple school traffic, according to Transportation Director John Hall.

Hotard said the La. 26 property is ideal because there are no surface streets since it is located on a highway and the property is untouched farm land.

“We could put the school building wherever we need to and make it functional because we have space in both directions,” he said.

Hotard did recommend that the school board have a traffic study conducted near the site. The study will be paid for from the school district’s maintenance funds.

Finance Director Bill Hebert said the school board has adequate funds in its maintenance fund to acquire the property.

If the new school is built, the school board would remove unused buildings at the older schools and clean up the properties.

“We feel strongly about not leaving any buildings unused,” Credeur said. “We want to clean up any unused buildings and leave a clean footprint.”

””New Elementary School graphic

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