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School braces for beefed up curricula in 2014; designer selected for $22 million schoolhouse

Lee Ledbetter and Associates have won the contract to design a new $22 million school for Lake Forest Elementary, the board of directors announced at its monthly meeting, Jan. 24. The new school will stand at 11110 Lake Forest Blvd.

Also discussed was implementation of new federal Core Curriculum Standards, which will take effect for all Louisiana schools in the fall of 2014.

Principal Mardele Early told the board that her teachers are preparing for the shift. “We’ve been on this journey for three years,” she said. She described a meeting in which she shuffled curriculum items, and asked teachers what grade they thought the material was for. “Seventh grade?” one teacher guessed. “No, third grade,” Early revealed. “Second grade on this one?  Nope.  Kindergarten.”

Early said she supports the tougher curricula: “It’s serious, and it’s time for America to do this. … America is behind a lot of other countries in teaching our children to think.”

Administrator Bernell St. Cyr gave an update on finances.  Grants, including one from Rex’s Pro Bono Publico Foundation, helped cover small deficits in the school’s $2 million budget.  Many members expressed concern that the state would further reduce per-student funding from the Minimum Foundation Program, which makes up over 85% of the school’s revenues.

Afterwards, St. Cyr described building maintenance issues.  He said that the Recovery School District would be fixing several leaks in the roof.  The school also plans a $3,500 upgrade in its security system after a break-in and attempted theft in December. The old system, which relied on sound sensors to detect intruders, failed to notice the break-in until the thieves had entered several rooms.  Luckily, the system did kick in when they entered the library, and the stolen items were dropped on the property as the thieves ran from police. The new system will sense an intruder’s body heat.

The school’s ventilation has also been problematic, St. Cyr said. “Every time we shut the air system down, we say a little prayer that it will turn back on,” he said. “That prayer didn’t work over the weekend.”  Necessary improvements are expected to cost another $3,500.

The meeting was attended by board members Windi D. Brown, Denise Williams, Gina Dupart, Donald Pate, Brian K. Richburg, Sr., and Lee Caston, the board president. Leila Eames was absent.

The 85-minute meeting adjourned at 2:55 p.m. The next meeting is Feb. 14, at 1:30 p.m.

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