Vacant for over two years, the old Live Oak High School will begin accepting students again in the near future.

The Livingston Parish School Board voted Thursday to seek bids to renovate the campus, which will house younger students in grades seven and eight and be rechristened the new Live Oak Junior High School.

“This is a major, major renovation of this campus,” said architect Chris Bankston.

“The school is basically being gutted.”

He expects construction to cost somewhere around $4.5 million to renovate classroom buildings, administration, parking areas and the kitchen. The old cafeteria will be demolished and replaced, and contractors will work with the school system’s technology department to rewire the campus for more computer access.

Bankston said he hopes construction can begin around August and finish in about a year so the school can open in time for the 2016-17 school year.

If it isn’t ready, the campus will not open once the school year has begun, board member Kellee Hennessy said. The logistics of switching students to a new school and redrawing busing routes introduce too many headaches, she said.

“I think it can be done in a year. I really do,” she added.

Hennessy said the new campus will be able to handle about 650 students and will alleviate crowding at other nearby schools such as Live Oak Middle. Once the new junior high is built, the middle school will stop teaching seventh- and eighth-graders and take only fifth- and sixth-graders.

The renovation will not be funded through a bond but by regular district funding, such as the second sales tax, according to Hennessy and Superintendant John Watson.

On Thursday, the board also voted to buy 2 more acres near Walker High School, which is undergoing its own renovation. The land is undeveloped pasture and was purchased for $150,000, which board member Jimmy Watson called “some of the cheapest land I’ve bought out there.”

The addition will house soccer and football practice fields and improve drainage at the school, Jimmy Watson said.

The Walker district had recently considered building tennis courts at the high school but passed when they couldn’t find an affordable contract. Jimmy Watson said courts may be built on the new land sometime in the future.

Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.