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School board bond election

Info meeting tonight to feature body scanner demo
Tuesday, April 2, 2024
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Graphic via Lincoln Parish School Board

Residents will have another chance to ask questions and learn about the upcoming bond election for the Lincoln Parish School District at a public meeting tonight at Ruston High School.

In addition to a presentation from school district officials and a Q&A with the community, similar to two previous forums over the past few weeks, tonight’s meeting will also feature one of the body scan machines the school board hopes to purchase for the high school and Ruston Junior High.

On April 27 voters in the Ruston school zone will be asked to approve or strike down a $17.5 million bond package that, if passed, the district would pay off with a five-year property tax extension.

Included in the proposal are five Evolv brand body scanners at $100,000 apiece. One will be set up for a demonstration in the RHS auditorium lobby so that attendees can see what it’s like to pass through it — as all students, teachers and visitors will soon do if the proposal passes.

After tonight residents will have one more opportunity to hear from and question school district officials about the proposal at the final forum on April 9.

The body scanners are part of about $2.45 million in security upgrades at RHS and RJHS included in the package. Another $12.2 million or so would go to athletics projects for various sports at the high school.

Roof repairs at RHS would cost another $1 million, while parking expansions at both schools would run another $ 630,000. Lastly, $ 900,000 would go to purchase activity buses that would be shared among all the schools in the city.

The district is calling the proposal phase 1 of a two-part plan to update the school facilities in the Ruston zone.

Phase 2, they say, would begin with bringing in a third-party consultant to conduct an assessment of the district’s facilities and population trends, followed by possibly a larger bond election in 3-5 years for further projects at those facilities based on the consultant’s recommendations.

It’s possible phase 2 could include changes to the number or location of schools in the district, officials say, so that’s why only RHS and RJHS are receiving projects in phase 1.

Phase 2 is not included in the April 27 proposition and would be subject to later school board approval.

A handful of critics at previous meetings have asked why the district didn’t conduct this study first before asking for these phase-1 projects.

Superintendent Ricky Durrett has given two reasons. First, some of the phase-1 projects are urgent needs for the schools and couldn’t wait for the completion of a study and larger plan.

Also, issuing more bonds now would allow the existing 16.75- mill property tax to be extended