Council voices support for school board bond

Brandie Richardson @B_lifestyles
The Council and Mayor received a plaque from the Louisiana Babe Ruth League for the city’s dedication to youth baseball.

     Ascension Parish School Board members attended the Tuesday meeting to discuss and answer questions regarding the April 9 school construction bond election. If passed, an existing 15.08 mills will be extended through 2036 allowing the school board to borrow $120 million for school improvements and construction projects.

     Ascension Parish School Board Assistant Superintendent Steve Westbrook said the extension is needed as the Parish is continuously growing, resulting in several schools facing overcrowding issues.

    Currently, the school system grows from 400-600 students a year. It is projected that over the next 10 years, schools will increase by 33 percent.

     City Attorney Chuck Long voiced his concerns for the west bank schools, saying perception of Donaldsonville schools receiving D and F grades is what’s hurting the city.

     “I feel, and the people I’ve talked to feel, and it’s just a feeling, that our school system on the west bank is not that pride and joy that they talk about on the east bank,” Long said. “We cant get people to relocate in Donaldsonville with children because they don’t feel that their children are being put in an A school. That’s the reality of it. Perception is what’s killing us.”

     He suggested highlighting some of the successes and positives of Donaldsonville students, saying that maybe the perception of the west bank overshadows some of the students.

     Lisa Bacala, Ascension Parish Director of Secondary Education, said the board is working on publicizing positive things that come from Donaldsonville schools such as college and career ready efforts from elementary schools to high schools on the west bank.

     “It’s small doses, but we really are trying to focus on that because we know there’s a lot of good that’s not being seen,” Bacala said.

     If passed, the bond will fund the construction of four new schools and the planning phase for a future new high school. Specifically for the west bank schools, Donaldsonville High will receive more classrooms for special education students and office space through renovations to the old library, Ascension Head Start’s building will be completely renovated and additional space will be provided for Lowery Middle to house all students on campus.

     Parish wide improvements include the addition of exterior covered play areas for all primary schools and the continued security plan across all campuses. Currently there are over 1,100 security systems and monitors in place.

     Council members showed their support for the bond in the form of a resolution, which will be voted on at the March 22 meeting.

     This year’s Back to School Program for children pre-K to 12th grade will be held at the Lemann Center on July 25-29 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The sponsor for the program will be the City of Donaldsonville.

     Captain Rick Bergeron of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office gave the January report. During the month there was a total of 382 service calls, with 34 vehicle accidents, 30 thefts, 29 alarm calls, nine burglaries and seven narcotics arrests. There were also 101 traffic citations given and 69 adult arrests and four juvenile arrests.

     During February there was a total of 401 service calls, with 41 vehicle accidents, 37 alarms, 22 thefts, five burglaries and four narcotic arrests, as well as 134 traffic citations, 67 adult arrests and 12 juvenile arrests.

     Fire Chief Chuck Montero gave the monthly fire report. For the month of February, there were 54 E.M.S calls, six false alarms, two structure fires and one vehicle fire. Additionally, there were a total of 283 man-hours of training

     An update was given about the property located at 743 Church St. Councilman Spano suggested the council create an ordinance that will halt the application process for those who are behind on property taxes. He added that individuals applying for permits to do construction on their homes or for utility permits would need to supply information that their property taxes are up to date. The proposed ordinance will be discussed at the upcoming committee to whole meeting.

     Councilman Francis updated the council on the Dollar Store clean up. He said that the business did cut the grass, though the council has to continuously keep telling them to clean up around the area. Long suggested that the council notify the corporate office, telling them to show cause as to why the city shouldn’t take more action to try and shut down the business.