The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday recommended moving forward with the rebuilding of Broadmoor Elementary School and placing the project at the front of the line for new school construction.
Thursday’s vote, which is likely to be ratified when the board holds its regular meeting Feb. 18, would place Broadmoor Elementary ahead of building a new career academy known as Ardendale in the Melrose East neighborhood and rebuilding Park Elementary.
The target opening date for a new Broadmoor Elementary would be August 2018. The students at the school, located at 9650 Goodwood Blvd., would spend at least a year, perhaps longer, taking classes at another location.
That other location is likely the old Valley Park Junior High, 4510 Bawell St. Students from Lee High School are currently at Valley Park as they await the completion this summer of a new Lee High at its historic home at 1105 Lee Drive.
Thursday’s debate went well beyond Broadmoor Elementary, Ardendale and Park to a reexamination of construction planned in the school system in the next few years. These three projects, as well as a planned new school in the Jefferson Terrace area, were part of the Tax Plan voters approved in spring 2008 when they renewed a 1-cent sales tax. About 40 percent of that sales tax funds most school construction in the parish.
Thursday’s vote, which was to solicit proposals to design a new Broadmoor Elementary, was 6-3. Board member Jill Dyason, Barbara Freiberg and Evelyn Ware-Jackson voted no.
Dyason and Ware-Jackson questioned whether it’s necessary to rebuild Broadmoor Elementary if its attendance zone was redrawn so some of the students who live in the Melrose East area instead went to Melrose Elementary, which is closer.
Board member Connie Bernard, who voted for seeking architects for the project, nevertheless expressed discomfort, saying she has “lots and lots of questions.” Among other things, she urged the school system to do a new demographic study — the last one was done in 2007 — to make sure new schools are built where kids are.
“These are the kinds of decisions that affect us for decades to come,” Bernard said.
Board member Mark Bellue, who represents the Broadmoor area, said it’s time to start moving.
“Now we are already behind on three projects out of four in the Tax Plan,” he said. “I think we need to stop putting it off.”
Thursday’s discussion was a continuation of a debate that began Saturday at an all-day School Board retreat.
Drake said his plans to reopen Istrouma High School, originally planned for this year but now likely delayed a year, involve either spending less on Ardendale or downscaling the rebuilding of Park Elementary so it educates 400 kids rather than the 660 current plans call for there.
Drake made clear he does not want to repeat at Park what’s happened at Progress Elementary, which was built for 660 students but its enrollment is only 375. At the same time, he said, he wants to go ahead with what the voters wanted.
“We do have four projects. We have the money, so we need to move forward on them and honor and respect what the people have voted on, but do it in a smarter way,” he said.