The West Baton Rouge School Board unanimously approved, Wednesday evening, a request that would see the demolition of several derelict, historical buildings in Port Allen.
During the monthly school board meeting, the board approved the request to start taking bids to demolish buildings on the old Cohn High School campus.
According to WBR Schools Superintendent David Corona, the board had received complaints that the campus, which has not been in use since the early 1970s, had become an eyesore and a possible location for illegal activity.
Wilhemenia DeCuir, 1955 graduate of Cohn High School and Cohn High teacher, said that she and others in the Cohn High School Alumni Association understand that the demolition of the buildings are for the best.
“We know it’s for the good of the community and we know it’s for the good of the boys and girls of our parish,” said DeCuir, speaking for the alumni association. “I want to say thank you for allowing us the opportunity to try and keep Cohn High School building alive, even though we might see a demise of the building, but our love will remain for Cohn High School and the site.”
Built in 1949, Cohn High was the first black K-12 public school in Port Allen during the days of segregation.
DeCuir, who helped organize the Cohn High School Alumni Association, said that she began attending the school as a seventh grade student as soon as it opened, and graduated in 1955. Four years later, she said, she became a teacher at the school and was taught throughout the school’s short existence.
She said that the alumni association was founded with the intention of trying to save the old school site, and though the members recognize now that the old campus may be a danger to the community, the organization was not founded for naught.
“We did not restore the buildings, but we let the boys and girls of the parish know that we were there, that we were concerned about their education, and we wanted to do what we could do to enhance it,” DeCuir said. “And we’re hoping that when you move forward, you will not forget Cohn High School and make a wing, a room, a building, whatever, for Cohn High School. I’m asking you, don’t forget us.”
Jason Manola, school board president said that DeCuir and the alumni association has been an immense help in the community and said that the board would take careful steps to assure that Cohn High School would never be forgotten, even if the buildings are torn down.
“One of the things that we talked about to help preserve the history of the old Cohn High School, if the board does vote to demolish it, is to place a historical marker there just recognizing it as the site of the Cohn High School,” Manola said during the meeting. “I would hope that the board would consider when we actually pass the resolution tonight to demolish it, to also include a historical marker to be presented at that location on site.”
The board then voted, unanimously, to authorize staff members to proceed with the seeking of bids for the demolition.
“That’s part of our history,” said Corona. “That school was part of the West Baton Rouge Parish school system history, and it will remain part of our history.”