Livingston Parish school officials and community leaders broke ground June 27 during a ceremony at Walker High School to launch the construction of a new classroom building, library, vocational training areas, cafeteria, administrative offices, gymnasium and music education facility.
The new construction is part of a $25 million capital improvement plan approved by voters in the Walker school district in 2014, a news release said.
Walker School Board member Jimmy Watson said some smaller construction projects and upgrades were completed over the last year, but Monday’s groundbreaking marked the start of the largest components of the plan. He said school officials worked with project designers for several months to make sure the high school’s improvements and expansion fit into the approved budget.
He said that while the original design called for several small buildings on the campus, the new plan has combined them into larger structures. He said the new construction is expected to be completed around the start of the 2018-19 school year.
Those projects recently completed in the Walker school district include the addition of seven classrooms and a multipurpose building at South Fork Elementary, as well as renovations to existing Walker High facilities, including a new football and track surface and upgrades to the field house.
Infrastructure improvements supporting the large-scale construction effort were also completed during the past year, including the installation of water and gas lines and subsurface drainage.
The new construction projects that will be underway soon include an 80,000-square-foot, two-story building with 32 classrooms, a library, teacher workroom and administrative offices. The main building will face Florida Boulevard, creating a new front entrance to the campus.
Other construction projects include a new cafeteria with indoor and outdoor seating for 600 to 800 students; a new band room for nearly 200 students, equipped with practice and lesson rooms, as well as storage for instruments; a new 16,000-square-foot vocational-technical education building for agriculture, carpentry and welding classes; and a new air-conditioned gymnasium that can seat 2,000 people.
The cost for all the projects is budgeted at just more than $23 million.
Watson said the improvements for the high school have been scheduled in phases to allow classes to continue without any interruption and to give officials ample time to develop the most cost-effective designs and transition plan, the release said.
“We are excited about this new school and the positive influence it will have on learning for years to come,” Watson said.
“Walker High School has been the parish’s fastest growing campus over the past five years,” he said. “More than 50 percent of all the parish’s student enrollment increase has been in the Walker school district, and our high school has seen a large portion of that.”
Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre said his school has also grown its academic and career opportunities for students.
The school offers seven advanced-placement courses and four pre-advanced placement courses, as well as eight dual-enrollment classes with local universities. At the same time, the school is partnered with the Northshore Technical College for dual enrollment and certifications in carpentry, welding, HVAC and air-conditioning.
The campus offers opportunities to study and compete in robotic engineering, as well as business and marketing development through an on-campus credit union and Green & White Cookie Site, which is a school-based enterprise that has created and marketed products to the Walker community since 1997.
St. Pierre said students also have opportunities to engage in paid internships with several local businesses, giving them real-world experience and access to career opportunities immediately upon graduation.
“We are connecting our students with more opportunities and better opportunities to advance their learning and their careers,” St. Pierre said. “We are thankful to the Livingston Parish School Board and the voters of Walker for continuing to invest in our students and for improving our learning environment for even greater success in years to come.”