MOSS BLUFF, La. (KPLC) - What began as a discussion proposing a new concession stand and football field turf at Sam Houston High School, quickly devolved into residents voicing their concerns with Gillis Elementary.
Their argument: why focus on the wants of certain schools when there are needs that need to be addressed at others?
“I have been incredibly disappointed in the condition of Gillis Elementary,” stated one concerned parent. “Our school has recently been home to many rats. This is something that was kept quiet, but I was aware immediately. You see, my first grader told me about the feces found in her room and then a short time later told me about a smell that was so strong that they had to move classrooms. So for approximately six weeks she was moved to a new classroom. The issues have grown quickly and spread to many parts of the school. Among a large list of issues related to rat urine and feces are quite a few that can be hazardous. There have been countless schools built in rural areas without the problems that Gillis is facing. A remodeled and updated school would be the best way to resolve this issue. I am asking the board members: would you send your child to Gillis? If the answer is not a resounding yes, then your proposal for funding being spent on nonessential things such as a concession stand and new turf should be an absolute no.”
“I have lived in Moss Bluff since 1988 and I have seen a new elementary school, I’ve seen a new middle school, I’ve seen numerous additions to the high school, and Gillis gets pushed to the side,” A concerned teacher stated. "There have been some drainage improvements made, but as you see in recent pictures, apparently they didn’t fix them all. I have taught in a portable building that the kids have had to wade through water to get to the classroom and have wet feet and wet socks. In the winter time they are very cold. These kids stay cold going to the cafeteria, going to the library, going to the bathroom. They stay wet all day. I am speaking in opposition against a concession stand and turf that will only be used for home football games until these little children are taken care of for those 178 days that they are at school.”
“Any improvements to a turf on a field or a concession stand when Gillis is in the shape it’s in completely blows my mind,” Lori Trahan, PTO President for Gillis Elementary said. “It shouldn’t even be a consideration. Gillis has suffered so many years of neglect and we have so many safety issues. Open walkways and outdoor restrooms. They are very dangerous. At any time when it is humid they are wet and slippery. When it rains it not only covers the walkway from the leaks and all of the covers, it blows and it gets everything and everyone on those walkways wet. It’s really fun when the weather is cold. Then it gets wet and your kids have to stay that way all day long. It’s not fair that our teachers and students are constantly pushed and pushed and pushed for grades, scores, to make that mark and to go that extra mile when they are left in these conditions when there is a better way."
Chad Paulk, head football coach at Sam Houston High School, spoke at the meeting as well, stating he wasn’t going against the concerns over Gillis Elementary, but wanted to highlight concerns with the current field and concession stand at Sam Houston High School.
“I’m not against Gillis,” Paulk stated. “Getting a turf or synthetic turf football field at Sam Houston would benefit everybody from Gillis. It would benefit anybody going to Sam Houston High School. Drainage. I understand. I don’t want my five or six year old walking through water either. I have fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year olds walking through water at Sam Houston High School when it rains. We flood too. I’ve picked up rats, rat trash at our field house that is brand new. It’s going to happen. I don’t want to do it, but we got to do it, and I pick it up. I’m not saying that the complaints about Gillis are not, and should not, go unheard, because I do believe there are things that need to happen at Gillis Elementary. But we are looking at a football field and a concession stand that we serve food from that is inoperable. It is a trash dump. Just like Gillis, there are some things that are some trash dumps. We are choosing to move this facility over and put in a brand new facility that we can serve good, clean food in. With the synthetic turf football field, we are not doing this just to take care of Sam Houston High School football. This turf can be used by our middle school that does not have a football field and they have been needing a football field. Our football team can practice when it is wet outside. It would be safer. Our band has 200 band members. They are practicing on an old, beat-up football field. It would support our rec ball. It will support our track programs in middle and high school. 780 kids a day would be able to utilize that turf field every single day, 365, rain, sleet, or snow"
School Board members agreed, but stated that those problems could have been addressed with a renewed sales tax that failed last November.
Last year, Voters in Moss Bluff emphatically voted down a sales tax that would have helped build a new school in that area. Seventy percent (4,854 votes to 1,431) voted against the 1.5-percent sales tax.
The 1 ½ cent sales tax would have been a little over $30 million, according to Board member John Duhon, that would have gone towards building a new elementary school in the Moss Bluff/Gillis area, as well as provided funds for other projects at Moss Bluff Elementary and Middle Schools, Sam Houston High School, and Gillis Elementary School.