New instruments on way for band students

Published 12:14 pm Wednesday, November 10, 2021

By Marlisa Harding

Band students within the Calcasieu Parish school system will be receiving new instruments after a vote at Tuesday’s board meeting. Using the district’s $50 million capital outlay funds and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds from the federal government for the purchase, hundreds of new instruments will soon be headed to band classrooms across the parish.

The initial motion for the purchase included bonding district 31 funds and ESSER funds being used for payment. Fred Hardy, bonding district 31 and election district two, objected to the use of bonding funds questioning, “Why is it that Washington is so different than other schools?”

Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus said all schools are covered under the ESSER funds but Washington-Marion had requests “above and beyond their share.”  “If you would like to purchase it through bond money, OK. If you don’t want to, they won’t get what they asked for.”

Hardy continued to press the issue stating his concerns for district 31 are bigger than the band instruments alone, including building project improvements “that have not been undertaken.”

“If there’s a shortage of money there, why are you taking out of this bond issue?” Hardy questioned.

Bruchhaus said inflation has nearly doubled the cost of projects approved prior to COVID-19 and the hurricanes but eventually work will resume, he said. “It will require a little patience, though. That’s what our architects are telling us.”

Hardy initially sought to remedy the situation by removing the use of the bond money completely from the motion, but numerous board members objected citing concern for students’ needs.

“At what point do you spend money on the students for what they need?” Mack Dellafosse, district seven, questioned. “You look at the number of instruments needed and I hate for these students to not have what they need.”

Similarly, Bliss Bujard, district11, said of Washington-Marion, “One of the highlights is to watch the halftime band production they do because it’s phenomenal. To take instruments that that those kids need is almost reprehensible.”

To remedy the solution, Dellafosse, Bruchhaus and Glenda Gay, bonding district 31 and district 3, recommended using a portion of the $50 million capital outlay funds to purchase the high school’s instruments. Hardy agreed and the motion passed unanimously.

The vote closed with Hardy adding, “It’s my district and I’m representing the people of my district as best I can and they voted on this (the specific uses for bond funds).”

In other news, hurricane repair work has resumed across the district with contractors “back on the job,”  Bruchhaus said. CPSB staff is working with project managers to determine the best path forward for the remaining bid schedule.

“We’re being kind of cautious there,” Bruchhaus said. “We don’t want to get caught in another cash crunch.”

The meeting concluded with comments on Bruchhaus’ annual superintendent evaluation which took place during executive session. “Considering the environment of the last year, COVID, hurricanes, and multiple 180s and 360s combined coming out of Baton Rouge and Washington D.C., fighting with FEMA and dealing with 15 different personalities up here, Mr. Bruchhaus, I think you’ve done one hell of a job and your evaluation was successful. Good job,” Billy Breaux, district 13, said.