Livingston — Livingston Parish school officials are preparing to ask Springfield-area residents to pay for a new high school that a School Board member says is desperately needed.
The board on Thursday scheduled a public hearing for Dec. 10, after which members will decide whether to call an election for property taxes to build a new campus. The election likely would be held in April.
The new high school is expected to cost about $14 million, board member Jim Richardson, who represents the Springfield area, told reporters after Thursday’s meeting.
After accounting for homestead exemptions, the Springfield-area school district initially would need to collect about 25 mills in property taxes to repay bonds needed to finance construction of a new campus.
It was not immediately clear Thursday how long the millage would need to be collected.
Richardson said a new school is essential, as the high school student population has grown 50 percent since 2000.
“We’ve been talking about this for about a decade,” he said. “We’ve got to do something because of the growth. … We’re maxed out.”
Alumni and other residents have banded together to advocate for a new school and worked with the architect on designs, Richardson said.
The district could have justified building a new school at least seven years ago, he said, but decided to put students in temporary buildings as a cost-cutting measure.
“We are not a rich district by any stretch of the imagination,” Richardson said of the local taxing district.
But now the old campus has run out of room for quick fixes. Richardson said a new school is planned to accommodate about 600 children, twice the current size of the student body. It would be located on 88 acres off La. 42, a plot purchased a decade ago for a new high school campus.
He said specific aspects of the design are still being ironed out, but he expects to be able to provide detailed information by the December forum.
Richardson did provide a few previews: The original plan called for a large library, but with students and teachers increasingly turning to electronic resources, that feature shrunk to free up room for other amenities.
Although the new campus would have a gym, the proposed school would continue to use the Springfield High athletic facilities to save money.
The existing high school campus would be turned into a school for students in third through fifth grades, freeing up room in the district’s other schools, Richardson said.
In other business, the School Board on Thursday learned that a new multipurpose building and classroom expansion at South Fork Elementary will be ready to use by the time students return from Thanksgiving break. Board members also approved a restructuring of the transportation department aimed at streamlining bus repair and planning for future residential growth.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.