Hicks, Pitkin scheduled to have gyms repaired by end of October

After two long years following Hurricane Laura, certain Vernon Parish schools can start seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with their recovery process.
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 10:03 PM CDT
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VERNON PARISH, La. (KALB) - After two long years following Hurricane Laura, certain Vernon Parish schools can start seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with their recovery process.

Exactly 23 months ago, one of the strongest hurricanes in U.S. history ripped through Central Louisiana, specifically Vernon Parish, leaving behind substantial damage to all 18 of its schools. Every school in the parish was part of the same part of a $25 million insurance claim that was split up into a three-part recovery plan.

“We were going to do everything we could to get the kids back in school,” said Vernon Parish School Superintendent James Williams.

Phase one was to clear out all of the water damage along with broken glass and windows and to put a temporary roof on the schools for the students to return to safely. Phase two included adding permanent roofs and repairing the classrooms to be equipped with the proper technology. The third and final phase, which was just approved back in March and is currently still in progress, will renovate the gyms at Pitkin and Hicks High School.

Pat Williams Construction received the bid for phase three for $4.1 million dollars. According to the project summary, work will include “major interior repair and renovations to Pitkin practice gym and Hicks auditorium, competition gym and practice gym.” New wood floors will also be included at both schools.

Originally, the major discussion immediately following Hurricane Laura was whether the gym at Hicks was going to be completely rebuilt or just refurnished. According to Williams, that decision was ultimately decided by the engineers.

“You’re sitting down with the engineers, and originally it looks like the plan would be to completely build a new gym or a new facility, well then you go back and that takes more time,” said Williams. “Then when structural engineers come out later and say the damage is not so that we can’t recover it, so we are not going to build a brand new gym.”

Those gyms, normally filled with excitement and cheers, have sat empty for just about two years, waiting for repair. Williams said he understands the frustration of not having all the projects complete by now but added that the final phase should be complete by the end of October.

“Did we get all of our gyms back together in time? No,” said Williams. “Nobody wanted us to be able to play in our gyms more than I do. The last part of phase three is, according to the schedule now, about 60 to 90 days out before completion.”

Hicks has been unable to play home basketball games the last two seasons due to the damage at their gym.

The project is in the crunch time to be complete before the high school basketball season tips off in November.

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