The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development program has approved an $8.1 million loan for the Slaughter Community Charter School to build its first permanent buildings, officials announced this week.

The school has operated in rented, portable classrooms on the Slaughter park property at the intersection of La. 412 and Midway Road since it opened to seventh and eighth grades in fall 2011.

The school, which is state chartered through a contract with the East Feliciana Parish School Board, has added a new grade each successive year, including 12th grade this fall.

Charter School Board President Glen LeDoux said the loan approval came after a two-year effort that included working to meet USDA loan requirements, buying the park property from the Police Jury earlier this year and upgrading the sewer system serving the school.

“There are so many people to thank,” LeDoux told Slaughter residents attending an informational meeting at the school Monday night. “Everybody helped us.”

The school has five years to construct the buildings, but LeDoux said he hopes to see the project move much faster, with construction possibly beginning in January or February.

“This is something we started in ’96, and to see this now... wow,” Slaughter Mayor Robbie Jackson said.

Architect Shane Higdon, of Tipton Associates, said the board wanted to keep the campus as compact as possible and get as much classroom space as the funding would allow. The Baton Rouge firm’s plans call for two buildings at the entrance to the campus, with administrative offices and specialty labs in one and a kitchen and dining area in the second.

Eighteen classrooms are planned, along with a gymnasium that can be used for community activities.

“It’s going to be for the community. It will help our community grow,” LeDoux said.

The buildings will be pre-engineered metal buildings with an environmentally friendly feel and energy-efficient features, Higdon said.

The new buildings will surround a green space, or “academic lawn,” and, although the buildings will not be connected, security features will force all visitors through the main entrance to gain access to the campus.

Construction will begin with the two buildings on the west end of the new campus and move to the east across the baseball field now in front of the rented buildings.

The school’s enrollment is 396 students, Director Linda Saucier said, and the projected capacity for the new buildings is 460.

The 3.6 percent loan can be repaid over a 40-year period, but LeDoux said he hopes the board can pay it back much sooner.

Jeremy Jones, of 4th Sector Solutions, the board’s financial advisers, said the debt service will amount to about 12 percent of the school’s annual revenue, which he said is well within the school’s financial means.

Eliminating the rented buildings now on campus will free up money needed to retire the debt, board members said.