KENTWOOD — Construction began Tuesday on the first of four new schools mandated in Tangipahoa Parish’s court-ordered desegregation plan.

The $14.2 million facility will replace O.W. Dillon Elementary School in Kentwood, and will keep the name, officials said.

Rebuilding the school was in the school system’s desegregation plan approved by U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle in March 2010.

Lemelle included a stipulation that Dillon be rebuilt immediately because the existing school was in such poor shape.

In the meantime, improvements were made to the campus, said Ann Smith, the School Board member who represents Kentwood.

The new school could be open by Christmas 2012, she said.

“This is a milestone for Kentwood,” said Mark Kolwe, Tangipahoa Parish superintendent of schools. “We have been working on this for a number of years.”

Funding for the construction comes from the parish’s second 1-cent sales tax, Kolwe said.

The parish was able to participate in the federal Qualified School Construction Bond program, in which school districts can sell revenue bonds without interest, said Bret Schnadelbach, the system’s financial chief.

Bondholders get tax credits in lieu of interest, he said.

“The school is technology-rich,” architect Michael Holly said. “It will also have a media center.”

The campus offers as well 33 “teaching stations” and a multipurpose building with a regulation basketball court, Holly said.

Kolwe said the school system consulted with teachers and administrators on classroom design.

“We are thrilled and excited,” Principal Ashley Walker said. “There are no words to describe it.”

The school, which sits on the southbound service road, will serve as an advertisement for Kentwood, Tangipahoa Parish, and Louisiana, Smith said.

Three other elementary schools are in line to be built under a compromise approved earlier this month: one west of Hammond/Ponchatoula, one north of Hammond, east of Interstate 55 and one south of Amite, east of I-55.