Plaquemines schools: High in the skyJan 12th, 2012 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: news
HOV Services Senior Project Manager Chris Barker hosted a tour of Plaquemines Parish School system construction projects for members of the Plaquemines Parish School Board last Friday. Several board members attended and were able to walk through construction sites and talk to each campus’ project manager.
Woodlawn teacher apartments
The original Woodlawn school sits upon one of the few places of Eastbank Plaquemines that did not flood during and after Katrina. The white two story building shares a driveway with the “new” Woodlawn school, now abandoned.
Pre-Katrina, the building had been converted to apartments and leased to the parish to house EMT personnel. Post-Katrina, EMTs used the building as living quarters and equipment storage.
But in years that have passed since the storm, trailers have been provided for the EMTs. When the EMTs moved the equipments and supplies did not. Many of the rooms are hard to walk in as the supplies and equipment are strewn on the floor. Boxes and boxes of latex gloves, syringes and catheters are scattered throughout the rooms, most of the time unopened.
Defibrillators and other large machinery and equipment sit collecting dust. Binders of EMT records containing past patients’ personal information are stacked by one apartment’s kitchen sink.
It was unclear on who is in control of the building. The school board owns it, but it had been leased to parish government, and the state of the lease was unknown.
The good news is that the building was built sturdy and will be renovated and back in school board use.
It was built out of cypress, and although the building sustained some damage from the storm and the years without continual maintenance, it is minor.
“The roof has a hole in it and the timber isn’t even rotted,” noted Chris Barker, Senior Project Manager of HOV Services, the company in charge of all PPSB post-Katrina construction. Barker pointed out the straight corners and lines of the structure meaning, “the frame of the building is good and that it was well constructed.”
Gutting will soon take place and renovations are set to start in about eight months. The building will have a different floor plan but will remain six apartments, this time for teachers of Phoenix.
HOV plans to strip the interior of the old building of door frames and other usable features, and incorporate them into the renovation, keeping the character of the structure both inside and out.
The budget is $1.2 million.
The Woodlawn School is a liability for the school board, says District 2 School Board member Nancy LaHaye. Although it did not see Katrina’s flood water, and was even used by Plaquemines Parish Government for offices after the storm, the building is unsalvageable.
Holes in the roof and ceiling let the elements flow in, destroying flooring. Bright green ferns and mold cover the floor in the gym.
Paint hangs from the ceiling in the cafeteria.
Some industrial kitchen equipment, like a large butcher block table and a stainless steel mixer, looked salvageable to a few of the school board members. Fran Bayhi-Martinez, PPSB member of District 5, found some champagne glasses with ornate etchings. She and LaHaye carefully collected them to save from demolition, the same way PPSB personnel went through the drained campuses to save books, equipment, supplies, anything that could be of use.
FEMA procedure is to conduct environmental and historic reviews before it approves, and funds, demolition. After the environmental review, which will determine if there are hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead, PPSB will demolish the structure.
They see it as a nice green space to complement the future teacher apartments.
Phoenix High School
A completed Phoenix High School will hopefully be a Christmas 2012 present to the parish, said Barker.
On the day of the tour, construction crews were pouring the concrete of the third floor.
The school will face Highway 39 and will have a view of the marshes.
The $27 million project is built to accommodate 500 students. There are 290 students currently at Phoenix now.
Piling for this structure delve 65 feet deep, and the bottom of the lowest floor, is several feet above the levee.
One of the hurdle of Phoenix’s construction has been the short life span of concrete. There is only a 90 minute window once concrete is in the truck. It then has to be transported to the site and quickly poured. Phoenix’s concrete comes from St. Bernard Parish.
Buras teacher apartments
If you’ve driven by the Buras teacher apartments, you’ve seen the tropical blue color. That is just a sealant against moisture. The final colors of the apartments will be a variety of pastels.
There are 32-units, each a one bedroom, but with the potential to expand to a two- or three-bedroom unit. The clever design allows the extra bedrooms when needed.
The quest for quality certified-teachers is a high priority for the school board. But the ruralness of some Plaquemines schools has often put a kink in this plan. Amenities have to be offered. Today, teachers at all non-Belle Chasse schools receive a slightly higher pay. There is even a bus that transports teachers to southern Westbank campuses, which saves the teachers on gas and mileage. The teacher apartments with extremely low rent is another lure.
If there are no delays, Kevin Stablier, project manager for the Buras Apartments, said that construction could be complete in April and teachers could start moving in in May.
South Plaquemines High
The culmination of the tour was South Plaquemines High School. Both school board members and the representative of HOV had a certain excitement to see and show off this structure.
They are all working hard to get this building complete in time for the beginning of 2012-2013 school year.
“The goal is to get kids in the classroom,” said project manager for SPHS, David Eberly. Eberly actually sleeps most nights in a little trailer on site. His boxer-mix dog Otis has been trained to bark at the mention of “change order.” Change orders are changes to the plans that often forces an increase to the budget and an extension of the completion date. They have been hurdles in the completion of many PPSB projects.
Grades 7th – 12th will attend this campus which boasts two gyms and an auditorium. Its been built to accommodate 700 students.
And it is being built to last. The windows that will be installed are missle-rated.
The pièce de résistance of SPHS is without question the library. It will be located on the top floor with more windows than wall. There is a breathtaking view of the marsh. Boats can be seen on the water. Even in its current state with tools and building materials everywhere and noise from the construction, it is a peaceful place.
Chris Barker, Senior Project Manager of HOV Services, said he can’t imagine a better place to read a book.
Little details haven’t been overlooked either. Flooring in the hallways will have a rendering of the Mississippi River flowing down the corridors. Secret locations for class time capsules have been incorporated into the design so they can be recovered in 30 years easily.
A school like South Plaquemines High would have never been possible without Katrina, noted some PPSB members. Not only for budgetary reasons, but also because towns fought the consolidation of Port Sulphur, Buras and Boothville-Venice High Schools so viciously before the storm, and even a little after.
See The Plaquemines Gazette Facebook page for more photos.