Cassidy Visits Barbe to Provide Update on School’s Restoration Efforts E! News UK

By Emily Burleigh

American press

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, MD (R-La.) visited Barbe High School on Monday.

“Lake Charles and southwestern Louisiana have been incredibly resilient following Hurricane Laura,” Cassidy said in a news release. “But they still need our help. We have and will continue to do everything in our power to help this region recover fully. »

“We certainly appreciate having Senator Cassidy here,” said Karl Bruchhaus, Calcasieu’s superintendent of education.

“We’re at the recovery point from the hurricane where anyone can help us, we welcome the opportunity to talk to them, and Sen, Cassidy certainly has that ability.”

FEMA funding delays have been sustained due to the restrictive evaluation process.

“It’s the executive branch that decides when to release the money,” Dr. Cassidy explained. “What I can do as a senator is call him and say, ‘Wait a second. You know you have to check the information, but the information is there.

Only a handful of evaluators were sent to evaluate the schools. The majority of damage assessments have been done virtually. This significantly delayed the process of distributing the funds by FEMA.

“Hopefully FEMA can release those dollars sooner to keep the money in the pipeline so that the ongoing work continues,” he said. “Ideally those dollars are available and the rest of that work can be committed before the kids can come to school in August.”

Bruchhaus can’t wait to get to work. “We have $260 million to do in permanent construction.” $150 million of borrowed funds have already been used.

Construction in Barbe is divided into three main projects. Eight million are allocated for roof damage and $2 million for the rental of modular buildings. The remaining funds will include ceiling repairs, flooring repairs and contents.

These construction projects have not yet been put out to tender. Bruchhaus said the parish does not yet have the funds to begin this process. “We are still awaiting reimbursement for our first projects from FEMA. Until we get them, we can’t offer anything else. Sulfur High School, for example, is a massive $20 million+ project. We didn’t bet anything there.

Time is running out to receive reimbursement from FEMA. Hurricane-related contracts are written differently, Bruchhaus said. In these contracts, the school board has the option of stopping construction for a period of 60 days. If the school board is unable to restart the project within these 60 days, the contractors can withdraw from the contract.

In its current state, the Calcasieu Parish School Board will not be able to proceed with construction due to a lack of funds.

“We are very concerned that without reimbursement, at some point this summer, we will not have the money to continue the construction that is underway,” he said. “It is crucial that people like Senator Cassidy are here so that we can speak with him and share our concerns.”

“It would force us to reapply for everything at higher rates than what’s going on right now, and ultimately cost us and FEMA more money down the line, so it’s kind of urgent.”

A priority for legislators and administrators is to ensure that Calcasieu Parish students have a meaningful experience during their elementary school years.

“We have a challenge, where because of the pandemic, and in Louisiana because of the storms, we’ve had kids who missed out on valuable educational experience,” Dr. Cassidy said. “They’ve gotten to where they’re usable, that kids can go to school, but they can’t have (in some schools) a home basketball game.”

“It certainly worries us, over the past three years, to have to deal with COVID and hurricanes,” Bruchhaus said. “We want to put them back in a position where when they graduate from high school, they can look back and really say they have the same degree that kids would have had in the past.”

Dr. Cassidy is optimistic for the future of Calcasieu Parish.

“They can look at the progress this community has made over the two years and know that we’re going to get better,” he said. “Frankly, this community can look to a place like Livingston Parish, cutting ribbons in schools after the 2016 floods, to understand that we’re going to move on from here to something even better.”

There have been concerns from the school board about the attention Southwest Louisiana has received from FEMA.

“When you’re dealing with federal agencies, there always seems to be a point where we’re pulled out here in southwest Louisiana,” he said. “We feel a little lonely sometimes.”

“I think we had that feeling, and it took a long time to get going. Now we’re just pushing to try to get him moving.

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