DENHAM SPRINGS – A whirlwind of activity over the next four days will take place on Hatchell Lane so Denham Springs Elementary can re-open Monday on a campus it can call its own.

“We’re just excited,” said Gail DeLee, principal of Denham Springs Elementary, on Thursday as she talked with teachers, contractors and central office personnel at the campus.

“We can’t wait for school and to start on one campus,” she said.

DeLee was interrupted by “Where’s my hall?” from a teacher in her vehicle.

The principal quickly explained where the 400 Hall was, then looked at what will be her new school.

“The cafeteria is larger than what we had at Denham Springs elementary,” she said.

“The facility is very impressive. The first time people see it, it seems huge,” she added, “but with the hallways, it feels homey.”

DeLee said students will be allowed to unload from vehicles and buses at 7 a.m. Monday. The tardy bell will ring at 7:25 a.m. School will dismisss at 2:41 p.m.

School officials have improved access to the property to better manage bus and carpool dropoff and pickups, routing traffic from Hatchell Lane to Maple Drive, and then to Adoration Lane, where traffic will enter the campus.

Parents of Denham Springs Elementary students will be receiving information about the new temporary campus this week. 

Since public schools reopened for classes on Sept. 12, Denham Springs Elementary’s grades have been housed on three other campuses.

Pre-kindergarten, first and second grades have been at Eastside Elementary, while third, fourth and fifth grades have been at Freshwater Elementary. Two other classes are at Northside Elementary

The temporary campus next to the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on Hatchell Lane will serve as the school’s campus, as officials work to repair the flood damage to the original campus.

“Welcoming the school’s students and staff to a site that is all their own is a priority for the district right now,” said Rick Wentzel, school superintendent. 

“Despite weather delays and other challenges that have slowed our efforts, we are moving full steam ahead to open this campus on Monday,” he said.

It means school officials, staff, teachers and volunteers will be working diligently the next four days to ready the temporary campus, he said.

Wentzel said the last section of concrete was poured Wednesday, and construction on canopies and walkways were being done Thursday.

Cafeteria equipment, furniture and desks will be put in place by Saturday, and the state fire marshal is scheduled to visit Saturday for his final inspection of the campus. 

Many of the teacher’s classroom resources are boxed and on site, Wentzel said, but the school’s faculty and staff, as well as volunteers, are planning to be on campus this weekend to put final touches on their classrooms.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but at this point, we see no reason why we can’t open this school on Monday,” Wentzel said. 

“To get the job done, we’re just going to roll up our sleeves and do what it takes to make this happen.”

The school system is still working with flood recovery experts to assess the structural damage of the Denham Springs Elementary campus on Range Avenue.

Many of the buildings on that campus are 30 to 40 years old, and their repair and restoration involve many issues.

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and the school system signed a zero-dollar lease for the school system to use 4 acres of church property near its pavilion.

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