A decision on who will design the Lafayette Parish School System’s first new high school in more than 40 years could come by early August, said Kyle Bordelon, the school system’s acting chief operations officer and facilities planning director.
The School Board voted earlier this month to build a new high school on its property in Youngsville in response to the rapid growth in the southern part of the parish and cramped campuses.
Sections of the 600-acre property are bordered by Chemin Metairie Parkway and Larrivere Road, and the architect will advise the board on the most suitable location for the new school.
The deadline for interested architecture firms to submit their qualifications for consideration was last week. As part of the selection process, Bordelon said, a committee will conduct site visits of the firms’ work and also interview finalists for the job.
The review committee will then make a recommendation for the full board’s consideration on who to hire for the job.
Bordelon said it’s possible a recommendation could come late next month, although it may not happen until August.
The property where the high school would be built is now leased by a sugar cane farmer, Dwayne Viator, whose seven-year lease started in January.
Viator said Tuesday that he’s been in contact with school system staff about the board’s recent decision and he plans to continue to lease sections of the 600-acre property that isn’t used for the school site.
As part of the board’s lease agreement with Viator, he is required to pay one-sixth of the profits generated by the sugar cane crop to the school system.
Matt Dugas, the school system’s finance director, said the lease allows the school system use of the property but it is required to reimburse the farmer.
“We reimburse him for the value of the crop that we destroy — minus the amount that we would have received anyway,” Dugas said.
Viator said he’s lost other leased properties as sugar cane fields are cleared for development across the southern part of the parish.
“I knew this was always a potential — for a school to be built on this property,” he said. “As we farm in Youngsville, I’ve dealt with the loss of property — not just for this school but residential neighborhoods.”
Bordelon said the school system’s staff will work with Viator during the site selection process to ensure the farmer continues to have access to property adjacent to the school site.
“We’re going to try not to place the school in such a manner that it blocks any access,” Bordelon said.
“We would like him to farm whatever property we’re not using because if he doesn’t farm it, then we don’t obtain any rent funding for any property that he doesn’t farm.”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.