The Ouachita Parish School Board agreed earlier this week to buy more property around West Monroe High School for additional parking and future expansion.
“We have a plan, but we’re doing it step by step, and there’s always that puzzle piece to get us through that plan,” said Ouachita Parish Schools Superintendent Don Coker.
The School Board acted on the matter during its regular meeting Tuesday. The property up for a vote was at 517 Travis Street in West Monroe, across from the high school’s band hall. The School Board will purchase the property at 517 Travis Street from Clee LLC for $74,000. Charles Odell Lee, of Monroe, is the manager of Clee LLC, according to Secretary of State’s office records.
“We purchase a lot of property,” said School Board President Jerry Hicks. “We’ve been trying to get property in front of the school to eventually get parking. We would really love to get the property there, but we take it on either side of the school that we can.”
“There’s just not enough parking, and it’s just tight,” Hicks added.
Coker said the School Board plans to buy property from Crescent Drive to Travis Street as well as from Travis to the old Edgewood Baptist Church (which is now the high school’s girls’ gymnasium).
“Once we do the demolition and clear the area, we can very well turn that into some more parking for the students,” Coker said. “It could possibly be some expansion, but nothing is determined yet.”
School Board member Tommy Comeaux said the parish school system’s plan was to buy five houses in the area around the high school.
“This is house number four,” Comeaux said.
According to Coker, only one more house was left to buy once the purchase of 517 Travis Street was completed.
“They offered to sell us the last one, but it’s tied up in a bankruptcy deal,” Comeaux said.
Comeaux said the property at 517 Travis Street was appraised at $84,000, but the owner was willing to sell it for $74,000.
“As long as people aren’t trying to be too high,” Hicks said. “Property is high when it gets around a school. Most of them don’t have houses on them, and that’s the kind we like.”
Coker said the purchase of the property at 517 Travis Street will go through once the School Board’s attorney makes sure there is a clean deed and then the School Board will negotiate directly with the owner.
Hicks and other School Board members have long complained that West Monroe High School was landlocked.
“West Ouachita (High School) has plenty of parking,” Hicks said. “West Monroe is the one landlocked.”
In other news, School Board Business Director Regina Mekus said the East Ouachita Bond fund currently has a balance of some $175,000.
“East Ouachita citizens have continued to support and pass bond issues, and they cover the whole east side of the parish and those funds are available for construction among the schools,” Mekus said. “It’s not committed.”
Meanwhile, the School Board is working with insurance companies to determine the replacement value and the cost of rebuilding Boley Elementary School.
Boley Elementary burned down in April after being struck by lightning.
“We’re looking to see the replacement cost if we were to build the same exact building on the same exact site,” Coker said.
According to Coker, any new construction of Boley would have to entail some safety features.
“The law has passed that you have to have those safe spaces and extra security for hurricanes, tornadoes and other emergencies,” Coker said. “It’s a law that has been passed.”