Schools gain emergency responders

Michael Tortorich

Every Ascension Parish public school now has a trained team for medical emergencies.

The School Board has implemented a program that placed 53 automated external defibrillators, commonly known as an AED, in schools and non-academic buildings in the parish, according to system spokesperson Johnnie Balfantz. The defibrillators are electronic devices used to establish a heartbeat.

Each high school has four AEDs, middle schools have two and primary schools and non-academic buildings have one, Balfantz said.

Each location has emergency response teams who have been trained in CPR and the use of the AEDs, he said.

School nurses Dena Pinell, Kelly Shally, Jodi Sheets and Jamie Vicknair, who are certified American Heart Association CPR trainers, were recognized during the Tuesday night meeting at the courthouse annex in Gonzales.

Balfantz said mock drills were performed where all personnel on the team responded and provided care as though it was an actual emergency.

He added that two mock drills will take place in each school on an annual basis.

Several businesses and community partners contributed donations toward the purchase of the AEDs, which cost about $1,500 each, Balfantz said.

St. Amant Fire Chief James LeBlanc said the mission from the beginning was to have AEDs in every school.

“That mission has been accomplished,” LeBlanc said.

Balfantz said it took two years for the four nurses to get the teams in place.

In another matter, the board recognized the businesses and volunteers who have helped establish jambalaya cooking clubs at the district’s middle schools.

Jeff Parent and Scott Duplechein, who teamed up to win the 2007 Jambalaya Festival title, have coordinated volunteers to teach students how to cook jambalaya in mini-pots over wood fires.

Jambalaya Festival Association President Wally Taillon presented an $800 donation for the program.

“We’re going to continue our support,” he said.

The money will go toward more equipment for schools, Parent said.

“I know we’re going to find some future jambalaya champs coming out of this,” Board President Ed Price said.

“There’s so much more to education than just tests,” Superintendent Donald Songy said. “They’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.”

In other business, the board accepted Industrial Enterprises’ low bid of $407,492 for the addition of a turn lane on Hwy. 431 in front of Lakeside Primary School.