Superintendent Warren Drake and his staff were still working Wednesday on a final list of proposed school construction projects to present Thursday to the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.

The board is scheduled to consider the project list for the April 28 special election, when voters will be asked to renew a 1-cent sales tax devoted to education.

The board meeting is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Thursday at the School Board Office, 1050 S. Foster Drive. 

On Saturday, during a full-day retreat at Southern University, Drake presented 22 “Recommended Named Projects” the school system is looking to build between 2019 and 2029. Board members raised a number of concerns about the list. In particular, board members from south Baton Rouge want to see ground broken more quickly on new schools in their area. Drake pledged to revise the list based upon the feedback he was hearing.

As of close of business Wednesday, no new list of projects had been posted online for Thursday’s meeting.

“It’s still being tweaked,” explained board member Dawn Collins.

She said the board has received at least one new draft of proposed changes since Saturday. She expects to see a final list Thursday sometime before the meeting starts.

If renewed, the 1-cent sales tax would raise an estimated $937 million over the course of a decade.

The penny tax, first approved in 1998, is divided into three parts and voters will be asked to vote on each separately.

The biggest chunk, 51 percent, goes to school construction. It's raising an estimated $477 million. The bulk of that is going for new construction but some of it is being set aside to purchase technology and to improve air-conditioning and heating systems.

Forty-one percent supports employee salaries and benefits, raising an estimated $384 million. And, finally, 8 percent is set aside to fund student discipline centers as well as alternative education and reducing truancy, raising an estimated $75 million.

The construction list has gone through multiple revisions since the school system began last year trying to figure out its future plans.

First, CSRS/Tillage Construction, the private partnership which oversees most public school construction in Baton Rouge, assessed the condition of school facilities.

Then the superintendent convened an in-house committee in the summer to refine the list of projects. Principals made suggestions first. Then the public chimed in at six community forums held in the fall and another four over the past three weeks. More people filled out online surveys. A total of 3,135 people made suggestions either online or in person.

The nine members of the School Board will get their say Thursday. And on April 28, East Baton Rouge Parish voters — excluding those in Baker, Central and Zachary — will have the final say.

The construction list handed out Saturday was the fifth released publicly. The 22 projects on the list collectively cost about $362 million.

Here are some highlights from that list:

  • New schools in south Baton Rouge spanning grades kindergarten to 12. They would cost $80 million, about $55 million less than when these projects were first proposed months ago. Drake said that money would build two or new three schools. Ten million dollars would go toward buying land in that fast-growing but school-scarce area. Several board members questioned the plan to start construction in 2026, suggesting an earlier start date.
  • Major renovations to McKinley High as well as the addition of a seventh-to-ninth-grade school on the campus. Estimated cost is $35 million. School supporters have pressed for a more expensive rebuilding of the historic high school.
  • Demolition and rebuilding of four schools: Baton Rouge Center for the Visual & Performing Arts, Glasgow Middle, Mayfair Lab and Westdale Heights Academic Magnet. Those would cost between $25 million and $30 million apiece.
  • Demolition and rebuilding of Brownfields and University Terrace elementary schools. Those schools would be rebuilt big enough to take in nearby White Hills and Buchanan elementaries, which would close. The projects would cost an estimated $25 million apiece.
  • Major renovations of both Broadmoor High and Middle schools, costing $25 million and $15 million apiece, respectively. Broadmoor Middle would close and the popular Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet, or BR FLAIM, would take over.

Several board members urged Drake to rethink the BR FLAIM move for a variety of reasons. BR FLAIM parents lobbied heavily to have a home big enough to house middle school students as well as its current elementary students.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.