Livingston School Board calls for election for tax-and-bond issue to build new high school in the Springfield area _lowres

 

It’s now up to Springfield-area voters whether to take on a new tax to build a high school that officials say is desperately needed.

“Please support this for our community,” Josh Randall asked the Livingston Parish School Board before they voted Thursday night to schedule an election.

Randall is a member of a citizens committee, the Springfield School Expansion Project, which has advocated for construction of a new school and met with the architect to discuss the design.

He was the sole speaker during the public hearing that preceded the vote, which was unanimous, minus absent member Jan Benton.

The School Board called for an April 9 election on whether to issue about $14.3 million in bonds to fund construction.

According to a resolution passed Thursday, the bond would be paid back within 20 years.

Officials estimate they would need to collect a 36.25-mill property tax in the first year to repay the debt, though board member Jim Richardson, who represents the area, has said he expects the rate would drop over time.

School officials have said they’ve placed temporary buildings all over the high school campus, and they have run out of room, yet enrollment continues to grow.

Richardson has said crowding at the current Springfield High campus has been a concern for a decade, and the school has simply run out of room.

The proposed site has room for about 600 children — double the current size of the student body — to accommodate growth.

“We absolutely have to do something,” Richardson said.

Architects have released a preliminary site plan for the proposed campus south of La. 42 at George Settlement Road. A horseshoe-shaped academic and administrative building would surround a central courtyard, architect Chris Bankston said in advance of Thursday’s meeting.

A gym, music building, cafeteria and agriculture building would be located to the south. The entire facility would cover about 80,000 square feet, Bankston said.

Architects included space for a new football field, though Richardson said the district will need to weigh its options. The Bulldogs may have to keep using the field at the old campus for awhile.

The proposed new school may have a practice field. The district would have to look at their finances as groundbreaking approaches, and may look to sponsors for additional support.

Should the millage be approved, the new high school could open in a few years, Richardson said, though he added it’s too early to advertise a particular date.

“Maybe tomorrow night,” he jokingly suggested.

If and when the new school is built, school leaders would turn over the existing campus to lower grades to free up space for the district’s younger students.

Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.