Lower than expected bid on new elementary school leads to additional school improvements project | St. Francisville

ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish School Board approved a contract with the low bidder for building the new Bains Elementary School on Sept. 15 and agreed to sell another $22.6 million in bonds for the construction and other ongoing work.

Last month, Milton J. Womack Inc. submitted the low bid of $23,907,201 to build the new school on 15 acres of land adjacent to West Feliciana Middle School at Bains.

Ten firms submitted bids for the work, which is being financed with proceeds from a $52.6 million bond issue that voters approved in May 2019.

Because the base bid for the building construction, $23.34 million, was below the budgeted figure, the board also was able to accept the Womack firm’s $103,401 bid to install additional canopies on bus and carpool drop-off lanes and $463,800 for enhanced playground equipment.

The entrance the school will be on Marydale Road.

Another contractor, Stuart and Co., is now clearing and grading the site, as well as preparing the locations for the school buildings under a $720,000 contract.

The Womack contract gives the firm 500 days to build the school. Representatives of the board’s construction management firm said Womack will be given a notice to proceed with the work shortly before Stuart finishes with test pilings for the foundation, perhaps in mid-October.

The board sold $30 million of the bonds in October, and bond attorney Alan Offner said the final $22.6 million authorized by the voters will be offered for sale by an Oct. 27 board meeting.

The bonds have a maximum interest rate of 6% over 30 years, but Offner said the bond market is favorable for a much lower rate of interest.

A property tax will be used to repay the debt.

The board also agreed to allocate up to $35,000 to renovate West Feliciana High School’s band room and agreed to upgrade one of three authorized maintenance worker positions to attract someone more skilled in construction and maintenance work.

The board agreed to add $13,000 to the old position’s $44,000 starting salary.

In a move related to the current coronavirus pandemic, the board agreed to increase the daily rate of pay for nondegreed substitute workers from minimum wage, about $54 a day, to a flat $75 per day. Substitutes with college degrees will have their pay increased from $75 to $95 per day.

The action includes hiring two additional teaching substitute teachers at each school on a permanent basis as well as a permanent substitute custodian and a food-service worker.

Human Resources Director Beverly Grant said the current employment climate makes it difficult to find substitute teachers, custodians and food service workers. The substitute employees actually work for a staffing service.

The board recognized three students of the year for 2020:

  • Anne-Claire Louise Alberstadt, now attending LSU, had a stellar high school career that included serving as a cheerleader, Beta Club member and volunteering for numerous school and community projects.
  • Eighth grader Mary Yansheng Mitchell was described in glowing terms by several teachers for her leadership, environmental awareness and service to her school.
  • Fifth grader Mary Benton Lavasseur was lauded for her sincerity and caring attitude toward her fellow students.

The board also recognized Kathrynn Fazio, one of 20 national winners of $500 gift cards from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a dramatic improvement in her reading ability by participating in the company’s READ 180 program. The West Feliciana Middle School eighth grader was described in the award notice as not liking reading and struggling with her grades before beginning the reading program.

The award notice says she now loves reading and is a “reader leader” helping younger students with their reading.

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