Port Neches-Groves school board, administration detail frustration following campus delay announcement

Published 12:49 pm Friday, August 18, 2023

PORT NECHES — Brandon Cropper was disappointed to learn construction company Sedalco “over promised” and “under delivered” on commitment in which they gave to the community of having schools ready for Aug. 21.

Cropper is the board of trustees president for Port Neches-Groves Independent School District.

The rest of the school board deferred to Cropper for reaction Friday after the school district again delayed the start of school for campuses at Port Neches Primary and Groves Primary.

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Those schools serve grades prekindergarten through second.

Sedalco Project Manager Gordon Lavender, left, and Eric Taylor, vice president Houston Division of Sedalco Construction Services, address concerns about the delay in the start for the primary schools. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Cropper was referring to statements made by representatives of Sedalco Construction Services during this week’s school board meeting, indicating the schools would open Aug. 21.

On Friday, the school district announced the primary schools would not open until Sept. 5.

“I and the Board were very clear on Monday night at the board meeting when we specifically asked, ‘what can we and the community expect come Monday, August 21,’ and they assured that we would have safe, clean, cool and comfortable schools ready for teachers and students to start their year,” Cropper said.

Phone and email messages seeking comment have been left with Sedalco Construction Services.

When asked if more about the possibility of a second delay should have been shared at this week’s school board meeting, Cropper said the administration’s decisions are being made with the information they receive from “experts who are building the primary school facilities.”

He said any delays would be addressed as soon as possible.

“I am highly confident in the administration’s decision to set a September goal as they are being proactive in setting a realistic timeline to ensure our facilities will be ready for our students and teachers,” Cropper said.

Seen in late July, Groves Primary School is located at the site of the former Groves Elementary. (Mary Meaux/The News)


After initially announcing that the schools’ start would be delayed from Aug. 17 to Aug. 21, the school district announced on social media Friday that the new start for those campuses is Sept. 5.

“Extra minutes were built into the calendar for unexpected weather events so there is no plan to make up those days at this time,” a statement on the district’s Facebook page reads. “PNGISD stands committed to providing the best educational environment for our students and staff. We deeply apologize for any inconvenience this delay has caused our students and their families.”

At the beginning of the district’s online’s social media statement, the reason for the second delay is listed as contractor Sedalco not meeting the deadline promised to Port Neches-Groves Independent School District.

In 2019, voters in the district approved a $130 million bond issue consolidating seven existing schools into four new buildings.

The four include Groves Primary School, located where the former Groves Elementary was on Cleveland Avenue; Port Neches Primary School, located at the site of the former Ridgewood campus on Merriman Street; Groves Intermediate, and Port Neches Intermediate, located at the site of the former Woodcrest campus on Heisler Street.

In late July, Deputy Superintendent Julie Gauthier told Port Arthur Newsmedia school construction is complete at the intermediate campuses, with contractors going over a punch list. The primary schools, at the time, were completing the final steps before teachers were to move in this month.

The district used two contractors for the construction: Sedalco Construction Services for the primary schools and Cadence McShane Construction for the intermediate schools.

School District

Port Arthur Newsmedia emailed school district Superintendent Dr. Mike Gonzales, seeking comment following Friday’s announcement.

Echoing concerns raised in the community, Gonzales was asked:

  • When did the District become aware of the second delay?
  • How confident are you of the Sept. 5 benchmark?
  • Is the District sticking with Sedalco to make the second deadline?

Gonzales responded, saying “I believe (Cropper’s) statement provided enough information for the district.”