An August 2017 opening for a new high school in the Youngsville area could be contingent on the School Board using a different process for managing construction from the one it has used in the past.

On Thursday, a board committee supported a concept known as “construction manager at risk,” which was described as a method to expedite construction of such projects. The process is different from the traditional method of hiring a general contractor.

The manager is hired based on qualifications — not based on the lowest bid — and could be a contractor or an architectural firm that would subcontract actual construction of the school.

The construction manager at risk provides time-saving benefits to a project, members of the board’s facilities committee were told, because the manager is on board earlier and can coordinate with architects as they design the project.

“If you do design-build and bring the construction person on the back end, he looks at the plan and says, ‘That can’t work,’ then you have to do a change-order. Change-orders usually require more money,” said Sandra Billeaudeau, the school system’s district planning administrator.

By having a manager on board from start to finish, “they work in tandem with the architect and our folks here to make sure that the delivery is on time and the product is what we want,” Billeaudeau said.

Jeremy Hidalgo, the board’s Facilities Committee chairman, said the process eliminates red tape that could delay a project if changes are needed during the process. Hidalgo said architects estimated that six to eight months could be saved on the project if a construction manager at risk is used.

“Without this process, I don’t think we’d be prepared to open in 2017,” Hidalgo said.

Abell+Crozier+Davis Architects, of Lafayette, was hired to design the high school, which the board has estimated could cost about $66 million. The full board is expected to take up the issue of using the construction manager at risk approach for the project at its meeting next month.

Also Thursday, the board’s Finance Committee supported the sale of $120 million in bonds to be repaid from current tax revenues to fund the construction of the high school, as well as a new elementary school to replace Katharine Drexel Elementary in Broussard and classroom additions for Plantation Elementary and Milton Elementary/Middle.

School officials have said the four projects are needed to help relieve cramped campuses in the southern part of the parish.

During the Finance Committee meeting Thursday, Billeaudeau said that after initial discussions with architects, it’s likely the high school would be built in phases to open the doors as early as August 2017 to ninth- and 10th-graders as construction on the campus would continue, if additional funding is secured.

The initial phase would involve building a school for 1,400 students, gyms, a cafeteria, library and other common-area buildings with the exception of outdoor athletic facilities, Billeaudeau said.

Additional phases to grow capacity at the school to 1,750 and possibly 2,000 students and of athletic facilities would require additional revenue — likely a property tax, school officials told the Finance Committee Thursday.

Hidalgo said if there is no new tax, the high school would be limited to its 1,400 capacity for all grades.

A preliminary plan for the high school involves a second phase to increase classroom space for 350 more students — to bring it to its 1,750 capacity in time for juniors to begin school in August 2018, as well as the construction of athletic facilities. A third phase, timed with seniors starting in August 2019, calls for more classrooms to account for 250 more students to bring the school’s total capacity to 2,000 students.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.