Plan set to make up lost school hours

Aaron Looney

DONALDSONVILLE – The Ascension Parish School Board announced Tuesday a final plan to adjust its school schedule and make up instructional days lost during hurricanes Gustav and Ike without adding days to the schedule.

Assistant Superintendent Patrice Pujol detailed the plan to the board during its Finance and Curriculum Committee meeting.

All schools will cancel a scheduled Sept. 19 staff development day to hold classes that day, Pujol said. Also, five parishwide faculty meetings were canceled in lieu of instructional time and early dismissal for the Christmas holidays will be pushed back 30 minutes later than originally scheduled.

At the primary school level, the scheduled parent-teacher conference day for Oct. 17 was  canceled.

Also, Donaldsonville Primary School - which was closed for an extended period because of power issues on the parish’s west bank - will add seven minutes to its school day beginning in the second nine-week period.

In parish high schools, a scheduled work day for teachers between semesters was canceled. Also, some additional planned early release days were canceled and some pep rallies were either canceled or shortened. Pujol said those decisions were made on a school-by-school basis.

Three high schools also added minutes to their instructional days beginning Monday, Sept. 29. St. Amant and East Ascension high schools added two minutes each to their days, while Donaldsonville High School added four minutes to its day.

Dutchtown High School added instructional time by having more block days than previously scheduled, Pujol said.

Parish middle schools did not need to make up lost time, as all schools had sufficient minutes of instruction, Pujol said.

“We feel like this is a workable plan that catches us up without adding days to the school year,” Pujol said. “It’s never an ideal situation to be in, but we think this is the best way to do it.”

Pujol said that details for each school’s plan would be made available to parents.

In other news, Pujol said that minor issues of mold remediation were underway at schools across the district. She gave the report in the stead of Superintendent Donald Songy, who was absent from the meeting.

While recent air quality testing showed that parish schools were within the appropriate ranges, Pujol said, there were some issues with a handful of classrooms.

Public Information Officer Johnnie Balfantz said that mold was found in a few rooms at G.W. Carver Primary School in Gonzales, but that the mold was not black mold and that the rooms were not classrooms.

He said that contractor Wynn White Consulting Engineers conducted the tests at the school, and environmental services contractor Gill Industries conducted the clean-up process.

Balfantz added that the school’s air conditioning and duct systems would be thoroughly cleaned this weekend.

Prior to the meeting, the board’s Technology Committee heard from department director Jake Ragusa regarding how the department fared during Hurricane Gustav.

“We were basically 2 feet away from a disaster at B.C. Alwes (Auditorium),” Ragusa said, referring to heavy roof damage the aged building where the system’s technology department is located. The building is part of the former Donaldsonville High School on Lee Avenue.

Ragusa said that roofers were in the process of replacing the damaged portions of the building’s roof.

Ragusa also said that his department suffered less than $40,000 in damages from the storm. However, he said that backup copies of vital data were protected off site during the storm.

“We’re very well protected, with universal power sources (UPS) on site as well,” Ragusa said.

He also said that that the B.C. Alwes building suffers from intermittent power outages.

“We have daily power dropoffs,” Ragusa said. “We believe that’s more of an issue with the city’s power grid,”

Committee chair Troy Gautreau Sr. asked Ragusa to present ideas on relocating the technology department headquarters to the full board, possibly creating locations on each bank of the parish. Possible eastbank sites include near East Ascension High or Central Elementary schools.

“We need a site that’s on a vital power grid that we know will come back up quickly,” said Gautreau, adding that the East Ascension High School site is near Promise Hospital of Ascension and the Parish Courthouse East.