The Iberia Parish School Board took steps this week to move forward with the purchase of 22 acres for its newest elementary school, with construction expected to begin in the next two years.

The School Board on Wednesday authorized Superintendent Dale Henderson to negotiate the purchase of 22 acres directly behind Belle Place Middle School at $15,000 per acre or as much as $330,000 for the property.

The construction of the school is part of a $50 million bond issue approved by voters in 2013 renewing an existing 21.9-mill property tax rate to also fund new technology and other renovations of school facilities across the parish.

The estimated cost for the school project, including the property purchase, is $13 million.

“We won’t start construction until sometime in the next year and a half or two years,” Henderson said. “The board first wanted to identify a property.”

The search was on for a site north of Bayou Teche where the district has noted growth, Henderson said. The site selected is near recent residential developments and in an area where more residential construction growth is expected, he said. The nearest elementary school to the selected site is North Lewis Elementary, which is at capacity with more than 700 students in preschool through grade six. It’s the third-largest school in the district, behind New Iberia Senior High and Westgate High, Henderson said.

“I think the board is being proactive to build a school in that area to accommodate the growth,” he said. “I think the board is looking into its crystal ball and seeing these people moving into the district and new developments being built in that area of the district. It’s time to make the move.”

The 2013 bond issue also involves: $5 million for technology; nearly $2.5 million for school safety and security improvements; and the remaining $30 million for renovations and other construction projects at existing schools and professional fees. Two major projects involve the construction of new football stadiums and fields for New Iberia Senior High and Westgate High School. Both high schools shared Lloyd G. Porter Stadium, located on Bank Avenue behind the former New Iberia Senior High. The stadium work is ongoing at both sites and turf work for the two high schools’ football fields, as well as the field at Loreauville High, will soon get underway, Henderson said.

The parish school system has completed several major expansions, construction projects and met the need for security and technology updates through smaller bond issues approved by voters, such as a $30 million bond issue approved in 2009.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.