Carolyn Roy | News Editor
A usually united school board showed a big disagreement during a committee meeting Tuesday when the subject of a new subdivision on St Maurice Lane arose. Board member Rhonda Guidroz said she was concerned about the safety of students because the proposed subdivision would be behind M.R. Weaver Elementary and East Natchitoches, schools in her district.
She said the subdivision will be gated with only one way in and out, St. Maurice Lane and East Fifth would be congested with no easy access for buses and parents dropping off students. She spoke at length about her concern for student safety because of a substandard street with no ditches, sidewalks or shoulders. She expressed concern for heavy equipment during construction of an already congested area. She said the subdivision would be “well and good” if St. Maurice Lane were a viable street.
She felt ,as a board, the group should let the City Council know of their concerns. Emile Metoyer was quick to disagree. He asked how much tax money the subdivision would generate since the school board is always seeking more money. He said the board had never tried to stop any other subdivisions and had not been concerned about safety in bad neighborhoods.
“Think of the property tax we will get,” Metoyer said. He also said he was not an advocate of telling the City where to put the subdivisions. He stated there were no concerns about no sidewalks in Natchez nor on La. Hwy. 119.
Metoyer said perhaps the developer could put walkways from the subdivision to the schools. “I’m not for stopping progress of the City or Parish.” Board president Steven Harris said there would be growing pains and speaking against the subdivision would be opposing affordable housing.
Dorothy McGaskey said she felt the City would address such concerns and it was not the school board’s job to handle this matter. Billy Benefield agreed with Guidroz. He said the subdivision was a great concept, just not near the schools. He had concerns about how children in the surrounding area would safely walk to school with the construction congestion added to neighborhood traffic. The issue was discussed at the regular meeting Thursday with much the same outcome.
Guidroz spoke again about the threat posed to students, saying she thought that safety of students should be a factor considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission. Speaking to the potential traffic congestion, Metoyer said parents who did not want to be in the car lines could put their children on buses that are now air-conditioned. “Anybody that’s in a car line, that’s they choice. It’s they fault.”
Board member Beverly Broadway said she thought this was a good opportunity to engage the City and think about other areas that are unsafe. Eloi said he did not speak at the Tuesday meeting but thought that rather than focusing on a specific issue, the board should address safety at all schools. He suggested a parish-wide dialog to talk about safety. No action was taken.