Board discusses new construction vs. renovation
The Webster Parish School Board discussed funding of a new field house for Minden High School Tuesday evening at a Building Grounds and Committee meeting.
Renovating the old field house would cost an estimated $2.3 million. However principal, Becky Wilson and coaches at Minden High felt a new field house in a location closer to the school would be ideal for safety of students and long-term planning. The estimate for a new field house was about $3.5 million.
The school board has about $387,000 in potential FEMA reimbursement.
“We just know that it’s time to begin this discussion, look at where we may head from here. We’ve got to answer a couple of simple questions. Are we going to look at building a new facility? Are we going to renovate the facility we have now? And how are we going to pay for it,” superintendent, Johnny Rowland said.
School Board member, Linda Kinsey toured the current athletic area at Minden High for an idea of what the needs of the athletic department would be.
“Where we’re housed now is actually beneath the school in what was meant to be Industrial Arts,” football coach Spencer Heard said.
Heard described an area that has one bathroom and no showers. The football team also does not have enough space for all of the players to work out at one time in the weight room they currently have.
“What we have now, we can maybe fit half [of the team]. The thing that I’ve seen is that it kind of hurt the continuity of the team. When you’re in there training together and you see the other person working, there’s just something about that. There’s something about the camaraderie that it builds and the trust in one another that it builds. We’ve had to train these last few years broken up in two to three groups and that’s the mentality that you build in the process,” Heard said.
The team is storing their equipment in a heating and air conditioning room and there is insufficient space for visiting teams to adequately prepare before a game.
Kinsey asked the group what their ideal field house would look like.
“We see far bigger than just a football area. We feel that there are lots of groups that could be utilizing this area. Especially our concerns with JROTC and what’s going to happen with them, we would love for JROTC to have a part here as well,” principal Becky Wilson said.
“We have to have a bigger vision than what we are right now and we have to say, what’s going to happen 30 years from now? We need to have that kind of plan in place to say will classrooms be needed? Will multipurpose areas be needed? How do we make sure we’re following all of the federal guidelines like Title 9,” Wilson said.
Crevonne Odom expressed concerns that if a millage was introduced, money would need to be set aside for J.L. Jones and E.S. Richardson because of a plan that was originally put into place around the time of Hurricane Katrina. Money was supposed to be spent on renovating the elementary schools but had to be rerouted to finish building Minden High School and Webster Junior High because prices to build increased after the hurricane.
“I’m going back to the promise that was made to the Minden district back when we made the consolidation. We promised them $10 million when we built Webster and Minden High. That $10 million was supposed to go to the elementary schools. Because of everything with Katrina, those prices went through the roof and we had to complete Minden High and Webster so we did not get to address the elementary schools. That was back in 2006, 2008? That’s how long we’ve been kicking this can down the road,” Odom said.
She suggested that money for Jones and Richardson be included in any millage that be brought forth for election.
Bond attorney Grant Schluter addressed the board on their capability to bring forth a millage.
“For district 6, you have ample legal capacity for additional general obligation bonds of the type that have been issued previously in this district and other districts, far in excess of what you need. Currently it’s about $26 million,” Schluter said.
For the bond to be granted in 2019, the board would legally have to state their intent at the December 3 meeting of the school board and formally call the election at the January 7 board meeting for an election in May 2019. This would allow for building to begin in August 2019. However, if waiting for the next election after that, building would not begin until 2020.
Board member Jerry Lott was concerned that December 3 was not enough time to come up with a solid plan but advised that an architect be chosen to move forward.
“In order to get the ball rolling, I would think the first thing we would do is choose an architect to draw out some options based on the input from the Minden High School department, the school board members, and anyone else who would like to serve on that project. We’re going to need to look at some options in terms of size, space, and location. To do that effectively we’ll need an architect. We can’t do very much until we get an architect. I would think we need to do that as soon as possible to get some solutions,’ Lott said.
Board president Johnnye Kennon said a special meeting would be called to choose an architect to look at improvements to the elementary schools and the field house. The next regularly scheduled school board meeting is December 3.