The sale of $94 million in bonds could bankroll a new high school in the Youngsville area and add classrooms at three elementary schools to alleviate overcrowding at schools in the southern part of the parish.
With an estimated $65 million, a high school for about 1,750 students could be built on School Board-owned property in the southeastern part of the parish where South Larriviere Road and Chemin Metairie Parkway intersect, Assistant Superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau said Monday at a joint meeting of the School Board’s facilities and finance committees.
The cost is an estimate and doesn’t include outdoor athletic facilities, which could be included in a second phase of construction, she said.
The remaining $29 million from a bond sale could be split among three elementary schools to add about 30 classrooms on each campus and make other improvements, such as expanding or building new cafeterias, at Plantation Elementary, Katharine Drexel Elementary and Milton Elementary. The expansions at Plantation could alleviate overcrowding at Ernest Gallet Elementary in Youngsville if school zones are modified, Billeaudeau said. A school zone modification and expansion at Drexel would alleviate the overcrowding at another Youngsville elementary school — Green T. Lindon, she said. The expansion at Milton would help plan for future growth that’s expected in the parish, she added.
The facilities committee supported the construction of a new high school without the outdoor athletic facilities on the board-owned property and the three elementary school projects. The committee recommendations will go before the full board for consideration.
Facilities chairman Jeremy Hidalgo said it could take up to three years for students to walk through the doors of a new high school.
“What’s the shortest period of time that a school like this could be completed?” he asked facilities director Kyle Bordelon.
Bordelon said rushing the project would increase costs and could also lead to costlier errors.
“I know this is a pressing issue, but I think it would be in our best interest for the longevity of the building to set a reasonable design time, a reasonable construction time and I think we’ll get the best product that will last a long time for our students,” Bordelon said.
He added that it could take up to six months to create a program for the school, which includes the plan for what’s needed in the school, such as the number of classrooms, labs and other building needs based on the educational programs that will be offered there. For instance, each high school in the parish currently offers specialized curriculum that provides students options to pursue career interests in areas such as the sciences, legal studies, the arts and health care.
It could take up to another six months just to draw up bid documents, Bordelon said.
“Three years to me is unreasonable. That’s a long time,” Hidalgo said.
New Superintendent Donald Aguillard told the board it’s important to carefully consider a plan for the high school and not rush the project.
“We’re trying to build a high school that will take us into the future for the next 60 years,” Aguillard said.
Monday was Aguillard’s first official day as superintendent, though since his selection on April 22, he’s remained in contact with staff and attended board meetings to provide input on board action and the budget.
“If we rezoned, would we still need a high school at this time?” asked parent Ella Arsement prior to the facilities committee’s vote. Arsement also asked how a new high school would impact enrollment at the other high schools.
Billeaudeau told the board that in the next five years the parish’s population is expected to grow by 90,000 residents; however, current growth in south Lafayette requires an immediate response.
She shared statistics on residential permits for Broussard and Youngsville, such as 333 residential permits and five apartment complex permits with 100 units for each complex in Broussard. In the past two years, Youngsville has issued nearly 500 residential permits each year and so far, 199 permits have been issued this year, she said.
The finance committee supported staff’s funding recommendation for an incremental bond sale starting with $30 million in January 2016, followed by another $30 million in 2017 and $32 million in 2018. A smaller bond sale of about $8 million was suggested in 2019-20. The total bond sale equals $100 million to make nearly $94 million available for construction costs.
The staff proposal is for the board to approve a bond sale to accomplish the first phase of construction, while subsequent phases and projects would be determined after a population growth study and a more thorough review of facility needs. Those future construction phases would be a “collaboration between the community and taxpayer support,” according to a printed version of parts of Billeaudeau’s presentation.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.