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School district looks toward upgrades for facilities

Mar 13, 2023

Community members gathered at the Professional Learning Center in Luling last week to offer feedback and suggestions toward potential physical education and athletic facility upgrades for St. Charles Parish's elementary, middle and high schools.

The meeting was hosted by Kade Rogers, the parish school district's administrator of safety, security, and emergency preparedness and athletics and was the last of a series of scheduled gatherings in which have seen district athletic coaches, students, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders suggest what form the next wave of planned facility upgrades would take. This most recent meeting specifically entailed suggestions as to what upgrades could improve each school's respective P.E. and athletic programs, but Rogers noted that the meetings in total – and enhancements that come as result – are directed at facility improvement for all students, beyond athletics and P.E.

Some of the suggestions offered by attendees included auxiliary gyms or spaces and covered spaces to mitigate inclement weather, small running tracks and turf installation.

Rogers said some consensus has formed regarding some suggestions, which will help when prioritizing the ideas for action.

"I’m going to have to dive deeper into the data to see how each group prioritizes their ideas, but we’re seeing a lot of consistency," Rogers said. "A lot will come down to meeting the needs of each site. Maybe Lakewood already has a gym, so do they need an auxiliary gym – do we go elsewhere with that and give Lakewood something else they need? It's not cookie cutter, all middle schools get this or all elementary schools get that."

These additions can go a long way and yield more benefits than it seems on the surface. For example, the turf fields installed at Destrehan and Hahnville high schools not only provide for a strong playing surface for the football and soccer teams, but are used often for ROTC, band, dance team and pep rally events.

"When I was coaching years ago and it was a grass field, soccer was practicing on another field because it was wet, rainy, soggy, that would mess the field up. Then you throw in (the time saved) with maintenance," he said.

Likewise, with the auxiliary and covered spaces being discussed as additions, on a day where it is raining and the gym may already be packed, a P.E. class would have somewhere to go work out of the weather, as well as simply providing extra space for extracurricular activities that would have shared more limited space before.

"We’ve gotten feedback from students involved in athletics, but also robotics, flag corps, the dance team and cheerleaders," Rogers said.

Rogers said it was important to open the process up and solicit feedback from as many sources as possible, adding that this approach was likewise effective in planning for the now-completed Phase I of school upgrades.

"We wanted to mirror that process," Rogers said. "We value their ideas. I have my own ideas of course, so does (Superintendent Ken Oertling), so does (chief plant services) and security officer John Rome). But we don't want this to be about us. Facilities last, people don't. What legacy are you leaving behind to make sure our students have what they need to be successful?"

Rogers said once all of the data is sorted, the information will be brought to the school board to officially formulate the priorities and create an implementation plan.

Recent school projects tackled have included key system, lock and access control upgrades at Allemands Elementary; HVAC air handler units and control replacements at the school district's central office; a roof replacement at E.J. Landry Alternative Center; an HVAC replacement at Schoeffner Elementary; repair replacement of cafeteria structural beams at Luling Elementary; stadium concrete and grout repairs at Destrehan and Hahnville high schools; a track replacement at Destrehan High School; renovations to three buildings at Mimosa Park Elementary; gym expansion and renovation at Destrehan and Hahnville high schools; drainage improvements at the Performing Arts Center, R.K. Smith Middle and the Satellite Center; stadium light fixture replacement at Destrehan and Hahnville high schools; a main canopy and concrete replacement at Destrehan and Hahnville high schools and the Satellite Center and the renovation and expansion of the Hahnville and Destrehan high gyms.

Most recently, the district has performed major renovations and repairs for its schools damaged during Hurricane Ida.