Jefferson Terrace lot.Copy.3.8.2018.jpg

A 20 acre vacant lot near Azork Avenue, in Baton Rouge, La., photographed on Oct. 20, 2017. The East Baton Rouge Parish school system is debating plans to build a K-8 school on the property, a school that would not only replace nearby Jefferson Terrace Elementary but also expand it into middle school grades.


The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday put off for two months selecting an architect to design a new school on 20 acres of vacant property near Jefferson Terrace Elementary.

The board was set Thursday to pick GraceHebert Architects of Baton Rouge to begin designing a K-8 school at a location known as “Jefferson Home Sites.” The new school, which could cost as much as $32.9 million and would be two stories tall, would replace 60-year-old Jefferson Terrace Elementary and expand it into middle school grades.

The School Board on Thursday applied the brakes. The board agreed to delay until its May 3 meeting considering selecting GraceHebert for the job. Between now and then, the board plans to settle on whether kindergarten-to-eighth grade is best grade configuration for the new school, which is not set to open until August 2020.

“We have heard the school described in community meetings as a K-8 (school), but the board hasn’t decided that,” said board member Evelyn Ware-Jackson.

“I have nothing against it being a K-8,” Ware-Jackson added. “I’m just thinking about the process.”

The process she and other board members questioned was the failure to get approval to change the grade configuration of the school to a K-8. In 2008, when voters renewed a 1-cent sales tax earmarked for education, they approved building either a middle school on the property or a pre-K to 12 magnet school. A component of the sales tax is that a special citizen-led Oversight Committee that meets twice a year has to sign off on any substantial changes in named construction projects like this one.

Superintendent Warren Drake said he’s fine with the delay. He noted that on Oct. 2, 2017, he told the Oversight Committee informally that he was looking to change the grade configuration of the Jefferson Home Sites school to a K-8 and the chairman expressed no problem with the idea. But he said he’s happy to go back and get formal approval.

Board member Jill Dyason said from now on she wants the board to vote before things are brought to the Oversight Committee.

“We usually doesn’t just skip the board and go to Oversight,” Dyason observed.

Drake noted that a K-8 design was the most popular of several possible options when school officials held a community forum on Oct. 10, 2017, at Jefferson Terrace Elementary that attracted about 100 people.

“Seventy percent of the respondents at the community forum responded that they wanted a K-8. That is why it was recommended that way,” Drake said.

Drake said there’s enough room on that property to potentially to add a high school on the grounds in the future.

The 20 acres in question are behind the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana offices off Bluebonnet Boulevard and about three blocks from the elementary school at 9902 Cal Road. Both the Cal Road property and the 20 acres were donated to the school system decades ago when the subdivision was built, but only the elementary school was constructed. That school currently educates about 450 students from preschool to fifth grade.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.