YOUNGSVILLE — Youngsville Mayor Ken Ritter and City Council members are urging the Lafayette Parish School Board to build a new high school in the city so new families — some 1,100 are expected by the end of 2015 — have the option to send their children to a public school nearby.
Recently, the School Board completed expansions at Youngsville Middle and Green T. Lindon Elementary to alleviate overcrowding at those two Youngsville schools, but more facilities are needed, Ritter and City Council members wrote in a letter to the School Board late last week.
“While we are appreciative of the recent additions to Youngsville Middle and GT Lindon Schools, we are also reminded with our city’s rapid growth more work still needs to be done,” they wrote. “Over the past 24 months, Youngsville has issued roughly 1,000 new building permits and nearly 1,700 additional home sites are approved for development. We estimate nearly 1,100 of these new homes will have families in them by the end of 2015. With over 63 percent of homes having children under the age of 18, records indicate that Youngsville leads the state with the number of children at home.”
High school students in Youngsville can attend public school at Comeaux High in Lafayette.
School Board Facilities Committee Chairman Jeremy Hidalgo said school building needs for Youngsville and south Lafayette are on the committee’s radar, but discussion on the issue likely will not come until after the board completes its budget planning for 2015-16.
“I know I will, as a committee member, be bringing it up in the future. Just right now, we’re still trying to get the budget process started. I applaud the City Council for getting involved and trying to partner with the School Board,” said Hidalgo, who represents the area on the School Board.
Ritter said while he and the City Council aren’t responsible for schools, they want to collaborate with the School Board to ensure residents’ needs are addressed.
“What our residents tell us is that they want a high school,” Ritter said. “Youngsville has about 600 acres of School Board property that the city has offered to bring water and sewer infrastructure to along Chemin Metairie Parkway. We challenge them to make this a priority.”
The School Board-owned property, known as Section 16 property, is a square mile of land leased for sugar cane production. The School Board receives about $70,000 annually from the lease and the contract allows the School Board to use the property, said Matt Dugas, the school system’s finance director.
This is not the first time city officials have reached out to the School Board. In 2012, then-Youngsville Mayor Wilson Viator made similar appeals to the School Board and even pitched the creation of a city school district if the board didn’t take steps to address overcrowding at schools in his city. The School Board included expansions for Youngsville Middle and Lindon in a list of projects funded by a 2012 bond sale. Some work continues at both sites, though construction of major expansions at both schools is complete.
The newest school in the Youngsville area is a charter school, Acadiana Renaissance Charter Academy, that opened in August, along with two other new charter schools that opened in the northern part of the parish. A fourth charter school was under construction in neighboring Broussard; however, a revised state education policy recently halted its August opening because of the low performance scores of its sister school in Baton Rouge. A charter high school is also planned in the future, and initial discussions placed the school in southern Lafayette Parish due to the need. A location hasn’t been determined, though.
The charter schools were rejected by the School Board in 2013, though Viator and Broussard Mayor Charles Langlinais both spoke in support of the charters, noting the growth in their cities, and appealed to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve the schools.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.