All classes are back in full gear in the Livingston Parish Public School System, even though not all schools are back on their original campuses.
Southside Elementary, Southside Junior High and Denham Springs Elementary will operate indefinitely in modular buildings as the school system works to restore campuses which endured severe damage in the August flood.
Since August, the school system has been in a dance with FEMA to tip-toe through the guidelines to ensure the system’s compliance.
The guidelines, however, have been Denham Springs Elementary’s roadblock to resuming classes on a separate campus. The delays with FEMA stalled the start on the temporary campus, located adjacent to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
FEMA guidelines forced a four-week delay on work at the Hatchell Lane site while the school system sought the approval of 10 Native American tribes to ensure they had no cultural connections to the site.
Had LPSS not sought the tribes’ approval on the Hatchell Lane site, taxpayers would have had to foot the entire bill since the federal agency would have denied all funding to the project. Again, federal regulations got in the way, but it goes with the territory when someone else picks up the tab.
FEMA has reimbursed the LPSS on other temporary school sites, but it’s a proverbial walk-on-egg-shells situation to adhere to the myriad of federal regulations – and it’s only the beginning.
Even with the FEMA reimbursement, the school system may have to dip into its reserves to cover its percentage of the costs.
The school system must now balance the added burden of rehabilitation costs at the same time it pays the regular costs of running a school system.
Superintendent of Schools Rick Wentzel said the rehabilitation costs could cost taxpayers as much as $120 million.
If patience is a byword for anyone who wants to see things done because they have to be deliberate in the recovery plan, the Livingston Parish Public School System will need a heap of resilience to ensure a strong comeback.
It’s been understandably difficult for residents, businesses and public official to keep a strong demeanor in the aftermath of the August flood. The challenges that await the Livingston Parish School System and other public entities – here and in neighboring parishes – will not end overnight.
We’re conditioned by heating food in the microwave in one minute to think everything else should happen immediately. Unfortunately, many do not understand the hurdles they may must jump simply to restore normalcy.
Officials throughout area believe it will take three to five years to fix all the internal and external damages related to the flood.
In a perfect scenario, it may work. But considering the challenges the school system has faced, it would prove wise to leave some wiggle room.