At its March 4 meeting, the Natchitoches Parish School Board authorized Business Affairs Supervisor Lee Waskom to move forward with preparation of legal paperwork for possible donation of Cloutierville Elementary facility for the purpose of providing a community center to the area.
Ricky Sanders, chairman of the board for the Natchitoches Parish Fire District No. 1 in Cloutierville, came before the board to talk about the Cloutierville Elementary facility that’s been sitting vacant for 3 years now.
“We are in search of not only a place for a community center, but we need a place to store our fire trucks,” said Sanders. “We are looking to make a station but we need a place to do that.”
Sanders said he’s also been in touch with the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, who is interested in coming on board to put an ambulance station and maybe a clinic, which would put them more on the south end of the parish. The Sheriff’s Office is also interested in having a place on that end of the parish where their deputies can hold someone and for other needs. The school is big enough to hold all this, so it’d be a multi-use type facility.
Sanders also said that his wife is trying to get Cloutierville incorporated, which involves tons of red tape. The fire district has the funds to maintain the building. It receives about $328, 000 in taxes a year and right is currently running on a budget of $150,000.
“We would like to have a little section for our fire trucks but the rest of it we wanted to go back toward the community where they’ll have these other entities that would be paying too,” said Sanders, who has also talked to different drug stores about making the facility a drop-off point
Natchitoches Parish School Superintendent Dr. Grant Eloi presented his superintendent report. According to him, the District is starting to turn a corner with its Covid numbers. There were less than four cases reported during the week of Feb. 14 and zero reported during the week of Feb. 24 because of the snow days, which acted like a kind of self-imposed quarantine.
He added that with the state going back into Phase 3 and record numbers of people receiving the vaccine he recommends that parents of virtual students can send their children back to school
“I know it’s a personal decision but we just think that that’s what’s best for kids especially as we see these cases go way down,” he said.
Eloi said there’s been a lot of questions about summer school and the district is planning on holding summer school. They would like to it to be as face-to-face as humanly possible, but it’s still too early to put out a master plan. In order to have summer school the district also needs to finalize its policy on promotion and retention. Eloi feels the policy needs to be readdressed with the context of Covid and a new state program called Accelerate that will add some caveats to summer school.
The district also has a social media campaign that will kick off in April to highlight all the good things that are going on.
Eloi added, “We do recognize that there’s still things that need to be addressed but this district as I like to say is a 90 foot barge and it takes it takes a while to turn that barge around and so some of these things are going to take a little longer. There’s a lot of stuff we want to tell the parents. This year’s been rough but you need to join us next year because it’s getting exciting and it’s improving every day.”
Eloi also bragged on a long-term substitute teacher who logged 71 hours on the 240 Tutoring over the past month and another logged 36 hours. The district started this program after some discussions with Northwestern State University to tutor long-term subs in the praxis exam because many of them can’t get past that little hump so the district is actually paying them to to do the tutoring themselves and then they can take the test and if they pass the district will pay the fees. Once they get that program the district will also pay for a portion of that ($1,000 for every three credit hours).
The meeting turned back to the budget and Waskom pointed out $1.133 million that’s the increase in sales taxes and ad valorem tax collections so the difference between these two is about $275,000. Waskom said he had to make adjustments throughout the rest of the budget to tighten up some things.
Sales tax collections are up and maintaining about a seven percent increase since the first of July. This includes the December sales which Business Affairs Supervisor Lee Waskom said he was nervous about. Collections were in a bit of a decline until the December number of 6.73 but 7.13 means it’s kind of turning around.
Waskom also informed the board that the district lost $1.4 million from the budget on MFP dollars, but it recovered through ad valorem tax collections as well as the 5 percent increase in sales tax enough to where it was only $275,000 in total difference but still losing $1.4 million is really troubling. This came from the loss of children that did not come back to school due to the fact that they were staying home. The average parish lost. over a million dollars. Eloi said he’ll be reaching out to the 204 students that are listed as homeschooled to see if he can bring them back into the district or learn ways the district can improve from these families experiences.
Shawnna Hicks updated the board with good news on the budget under child nutrition. There was a $500,000 gap between the revenue and the expenditures.
Between the time the report given to the board was printed and March 2 is that the district received two of claims from December and January so the difference is now is only $47,000. With FEMA paying us back $96,000 Waskom shared that he believes it will be in the positive by the end of this year.
Other agenda items included:
Notice: At its public meeting April 8 at 5 pm the School Board will consider adopting a resolution ordering and calling elections to be held in Consolidated School District 8 and 10 to authorize renewal of ad valorem taxes therein.
Approve resolution on broad band internet
Adopt revised budget
Declare 13.4 acres in Lena as surplus property (TABLED)