It’s only natural that newly appointed Lafayette Parish schools Superintendent Donald Aguillard would want to talk schools on his first day on the job Monday.
But Aguillard is wasting no time getting into the thick of things, calling a meeting of School Board committees to talk about bricks and mortar and ways to fix and pay for the district’s immediate facility needs.
Aguillard called a joint meeting of the board’s Facilities and Finance committees at 6 p.m. Monday to present information about the system’s “immediate needs” and the current financial resources that may be available to help pay for them.
“I think it’s a proactive move,” said board member Jeremy Hidalgo, chairman of the Facilities Committee, in discussing Aguillard’s initiative.
Hidalgo said he wasn’t aware of specific proposals but said part of the discussion will focus on the needs of the fast-growing areas of the parish he represents: Youngsville, Broussard and Milton.
“As a board member, I know I’m going to want to talk about the south side of town where the growth is, but it will be a districtwide conversation related to overcrowding and population,” Hidalgo said.
Youngsville Mayor Ken Ritter and members of the City Council have asked the board to consider building a new school in the area, specifically a high school, to help address overcrowding at existing schools.
The nearest high school to Youngsville is Comeaux High, with a population of more than 1,900 students. Hidalgo said he’s invited city leaders from his district to attend Monday’s meetings and be a part of the discussion.
Deferred maintenance, along with overcrowded and aging facilities, has left the district facing millions of dollars in costs.
The system’s facilities needs were outlined in a master planning process a few years ago that cost nearly $1 million and led to a failed attempt in 2011 to get voters to support a $561 million bond issue. Discussions of another tax proposal to fund facilities work didn’t make it past the School Board onto a ballot in 2013.
A few years ago, the board sold about $30 million in bonds to fund some needed repairs and new construction at a handful of schools.
The projects included new permanent classroom buildings at Green T. Lindon Elementary; a new science wing and engineering lab at Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy; a new cafeteria for L.J. Alleman Middle; new classrooms for Youngsville Middle; and renovations and repairs at Lafayette High and Northside High.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.