Breanna Smith

Thursday, Aug. 23 was a day of celebration for West Baton Rouge Schools. The morning was marked with the groundbreaking of Caneview K8 in Erwinville followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the additions to Cohn Elementary in Port Allen.

Breaking ground

In the quiet stillness of what was once a sugarcane field, members of the West Baton Rouge School Board along with principals Laree Taylor and Elizabeth Sarradet dug shovels into the dirt to commemorate the beginning of construction on the Caneview K-8 campus.

“This is something we have been looking forward to for years,” Sarradet, principal of Chamberlin Elementary, said.

The once-hotly debated topic of the school name is no more, but excitement still buzzes around the opportunities the new campus will bring. While some board members expressed a desire for the name to be Chamberlin-Devall to preserve the unique history of each school, the majority ruled. Caneview K-8 came out on top.

Members of thw WBR School Board and future staff of Caneview K-8 mark the beginning of the project with a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 23.

Plaques commemorating the histories of each school will be placed in the entryway of the new campus to preserve their individual and unique histories. At one time, Devall was an all-white school and Chamberlin was an all-black school. Nearly half a century after the West Baton Rouge School District was integrated, the parish will see its first combination of two once-segregated campuses.

Ruth Cohn Rosenthal Bilbe speaks with Superintendent Wes Watts after the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 23.

“I’m excited about the possibilities a school in this area will be able to provide for this community,” Taylor, principal of Devall Middle, said.

Taylor said she is looking forward to the updated facilities equipped with new technology the most. The 81,000 square foot campus, complete with a media center, will be a far cry from both of the original school houses. According to school board minutes from the September 1915 meeting, Devall was a three-room building with one principal, one assistant and 38 students in seven grades. Chamberlin was housed in a church, where one teacher taught 63 students across four grade levels. Caneview K-8 will have a capacity of 600 students. The campus will have special education classrooms, computer and science labs, an art room, makerspace, band room and gymnasium.

“It is a total group effort to get a project like this going,” School board member Michael Maranto, who represents the district encompassing Caneview K-8 said.

All three of Maranto’s children and his wife attended Devall Middle. He is excited to see the campuses come together while commemorating the histories of each school.

Caneview K-8 is on track to be complete by the end of next summer, according to Kern Consulting, the construction consulting company hired by the parish for the district-wide projects.

“We have a long way to go, but we have the right team on board,” Earl Kern of Kern Consulting said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Cutting the ribbon on Cohn

West Baton Rouge Schools cut the ribbon on the nearly 9,000 square foot addition to Cohn Elementary School Thursday, Aug. 23. Cohn alumni, community leaders, along with Ruth Cohn Rosenthal Bilbe, whose great-grandfather donated the land for Cohn, celebrated the occasion with members of the WBR School Board.

The additions include a multipurpose space, administration area, and updated bus loading area. Seeing the awe in the eyes of the students on the first day of school was the most rewarding part of the process, Principal Cassy Brou said.

“I’ve had more kids want to visit the principal’s office than ever before,” she said laughing.

The new bus loading area has improved how students begin and end their day, Brou said. The new multipurpose facility allows the school to join together as one community for morning assemblies. It also serves as a space for PE during inclement weather.

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