Ascension Parish Officials Provide Update on Donaldsonville Early Childhood Development Center

During the July 11 Ascension Parish Council Finance Committee meeting in Gonzales, officials provided updates on the early childhood development center planned for the old West School campus. Ascent to Donaldsonville as well as details of a tentative location in the new B. Lemann and Bro. building.

Ascension Parish Administrative Director John Diez kicked off the discussion with a recap of what has been done so far: demolition of the old Ascension West School building completed, outreach to the community and adjustments through state legislation to reallocate tax money to “building a prison for children”. ” and in a ” more preventive approach “.

“It’s just going upstream, trying to be preventative rather than punitive,” Diez said.

Ascension Parish, like some other parishes in the region, does not have a juvenile detention center. The miners are sent to a facility in St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans.

Recently, minors in Louisiana were evicted from an Alabama detention center after apparently causing a riot. One of the minors was jailed after allegedly murdering a teenager in the nearby parish of Iberville earlier this year.

Diez often cited the Perry Preschool Study, which involved researchers following children from their preschool curriculum through adulthood. He shared slides of the study results, which he says suggest positive impacts on education, living standards and criminal justice outcomes.

Although the permanent Early Childhood Development Center is on the site of the old West Ascension campus, Director of Public Services and Special Projects Manager Bill Dawson came up with the concept plan for the interim facility.

Since it will take two years to build the permanent facility, Dawson said the first floor of the historic B. Lemann and Bro. building on the corner of Railroad Avenue and Mississippi Street could be used sooner.

The Juvenile Justice Program Fund has annual revenue of $1.5 million from the one mill ad valorem tax, according to the Dawson slide. The fund has a projected balance of $8.6 million for the end of the year. The temporary facility would use $150,000 in capital and $400,000 per year to operate.

The opening schedule for the 7,800 square foot interim facility is January 2023. The move to the permanent location at 1200 St. Patrick Street is scheduled for January 2025.

Representatives from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux assisted in the implementation of the parish’s early childhood development program.

Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan was among local officials to applaud the new center.

“It makes me very proud as mayor to know that we are moving in the right direction,” Sullivan said.

Rep. Ken Brass said the center would be a game-changer for the West Rim of Ascension Parish as well as the River Parish region and the state.

Brass also pointed out that River Parishes Community College is considering a satellite campus in Donaldsonville to serve as a hub for nearby parishes.

Former Ascension Parish Schools Superintendent Donald Songy stressed the importance of young students starting school ready to learn.

“Unfortunately, you won’t see results next year,” Songy said. “You won’t see the results immediately. But in 20 years, 30 years, people will look back on what you did as a council, what you all did as an administration, and applaud you for the vision that you had to make something like this happen.”

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