Renovations underway at Goldonna School

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

The Natchitoches Parish School Board will convene in a special called meeting Tuesday, July 17 at 5 p.m. to vote on proposed bus routes for the next school year. The routes are those proposed to transport students who previously attended Cloutierville Elementary/Jr. High but will now attend schools in Provencal and the city. The proposed routes were presented during a committee meeting Tuesday by Jason Edwards, director for Echo Ride, the newly contracted bus transportation company.

For the vote to happen Thursday, it would have to have been added to the agenda by a unanimous vote. But Emile Metoyer, the board member who represents the Cloutierville school district, voted no and the item was not added. Metoyer alleged that the routes showed “favoritism in some subdivisions,” particularly those around La. 494 and Cypress. Now the vote will come during the special called meeting Tuesday.

Edwards presented the following plan:

•Buses will pick up students in the following areas who will attend school at Natchitoches Jr. High: Both sides of Hwy. 494 up to but not including La. Hwy 119 in Natchez; continuing down La. 494 to the Bermuda Bridge (east side only); picking up in Cedar Bend, Riverview Drive, Lambre’s Gin; coming back down Bermuda Road, picking up at St. Paul’s Church Road, Pratt’s Lane, Solomon Lane; also to include Patrick Road, Mari Street, Melle St. and any streets branching off.

•The pickup for students attending Provencal Elementary, the pickup will be: Those along La. 119 in Natchez, Sowell Street, Johnson Loop, Church Street, Robinson St., Natchez Place and anything on the west side of Hwy. 494.

Approximately 55-65 students from Cloutierville will attend Provencal school and approximately 16 will attend school in town. Edwards had hope to get approval of the routes schedule this week since he is already using routing software. Edwards went to work for Echo Ride in June and told the board Tuesday said the transition is proceeding smoothly. He has hired nearly all of the drivers and monitors who worked for the previous carrier. Two new buses are in service picking up kids attending the City day camp. Edwards plans to meet with parents at back-to-school open houses to inform them of the routes.

Board member Ralph Wilson reiterated the need to determine school district lines since the board voted to close the school at Cloutierville resulting in the movement of those students to Provencal and into the city. Supt. Dale Skinner said the board will consult with its attorney about how to determine those lines since the board is no longer under court-ordered integration. Skinner said another factor to consider is that students attending L.P. Vaughn will have a choice to attend Marthaville or Goldonna since L.P. Vaughn is a low-performing school. The board voted to proceed with demolition of the old magnet school building and advertise for bids. The demolition may also include asbestos abatement.

At the committee meeting Tuesday, retired educator and community activist John Winston asked the board to consider leasing the former magnet school building on University Parkway to a group wanting to start a supplemental learning and performing arts center. The group included Winston’s son, Victor, two other engineers, a group of black entrepreneurs who attended Natchitoches Central High School and some members of the Natchitoches Voters and Civic League. They had hoped to secure funding through grants. But Winston met Wednesday with Northwestern State President Dr. Chris Maggio who said the university had plans for the property. So the school boards vote to proceed with the demolition. The school board owns the building and Northwestern State owns the land.

Supervisor of Finance Richard Foshee had good news concerning the general fund and food service budgets. With the fiscal year having ended June 30, general fund revenue is running $811,000 over expenses and $933,000 under budget with only a few items left to be expensed. The food service budget was $215,000 under projections and had $759,000 more revenue than expenses.

The board approved the following action:

•Renew grant agreement with Rapides Foundation for Effective School Initiative in the amount of $142,000 for 12 months.

•Renew grant agreement with Rapides Foundation for renewal of Health Behaviors Partnership for $20,350 for 12 months.

•Approved Fortenberry and Ballard, PC, CPAs for annual audit.