Editor and Contributing Writer
Photograph: Superintendent Patrick Jenkins and School Board president Albert Hayes, Jr. discuss school track facilities. (Photograph by Bobby Ardoin.)
St. Landry Parish school officials have begun discussions they hope will solve at least one proposed aspect of an overall athletic facilities upgrade.
Costs for building or repairing new outdoor tracks at the District’s six public high schools were rejected by voters during a March parishwide referendum, a decision which is now forcing administrators and social board members to possibly consider bonding money for improvements.
Superintendent Patrick Jenkins emphasized during committee meetings last week that paying for resurfacing of tracks for all high schools has only reached the conversation stage and is not under consideration for a School Board decision.
A 1-mill facilities enhancement property tax proposition in March – one of three on separate ballots – was defeated by nearly 78 of those who voted on the issue.
That decision leaves the District with five unusable tracks, while another at North Central High,needs attention, Jenkins told the committee.
“Our track teams are practicing now on grass,” Jenkins said.
While outdoor tracks will enable schools to perhaps become more competitive in the sport, Jenkins said improving or resurfacing the tracks at the schools will assist physical education teachers with scheduling students’ activities as well as providing the general public with places where they can safely exercise.
How Much Will It Cost?
Although he has not obtained bids or quotes from contractors, Jenkins estimated the costs of outdoor track improvements at $200,000 to $400,000 each, depending upon the surface condition.
Finance Committee Chairman Josh Boudreaux said it will probably require a loan of $8 to $10 million to perform a comprehensive program for the tracks.
Eunice High for instance, has patched the track at that school with private funding, so expending revenues there might be less than at Port Barre and Beau Chene, where the entire surfaces need refurbishing if not total replacement, Jenkins told committee members.
“Some of our tracks are so damaged that they will need new tracks,” Jenkins added.
Another issue to be considered, some committee members said, is the size of the tracks.
Opelousas High and Eunice for instance have eight-lane tracks. The other parish schools – Northwest, North Central, Port Barre and Beau Chene have six lane tracks.
If they are funded by loans or bonding, will all tracks be rebuilt or resurfaced with six or eight lanes?
Those dimensional issues will eventually determine the total costs for the tracks, said committee members.
Boudreaux questioned whether money should be expended for six-lane tracks.
How to Proceed
Board member Mary Ellen Donatto recommended hiring engineering firms to determine the condition of the tracks and the overall costs for either improvements or entire resurfacing.
Operations Director Claudia Blanchard said the District is still negotiating with FEMA over recovering the costs of hurricane damages at the Northwest High track during 2020.
FEMA representatives Blanchard said, are apparently reluctant to pay for track repairs at Northwest High, since the track was in disrepair at the time the hurricane wind damage inflicted damages to the light poles and scoreboard.