LUTCHER — The St. James Parish School Board voted Tuesday to declare St. James High School as surplus property, an action designed to speed its sale, most probably to Yuhuang Chemical Inc., a corporation set to begin building a $1.85 billion ethanol plant adjacent to the school site.
The School Board also declared its intent to consider at its Jan. 13 meeting calling a May election asking voters to approve a tax-and-bond issue, possibly at $50 million, to finance construction of a new St. James High School complex in Vacherie.
The bonded debt also would cover the costs of school repairs throughout the parish, including replacing decades-old heating and cooling units and upgrading electrical systems.
The board will decide the exact amount of the proposed bonded debt at its next meeting, officials said Tuesday.
As for the St. James High issue, Yuhuang Chemical, a subsidiary of China-based Shandong Yuhuang Chemical Co. Ltd., has issued the school district a letter of intent to purchase the school site’s 46-acre property and, if its bid is accepted, corporation officials said they would keep the school’s live oak trees lining the River Road site and turn the main school building into an administrative corporation campus, St. James Parish Superintendent Alonzo Luce said.
The school’s auditorium and gym might also be retained for the community, Luce said.
School officials have sought to leave the industrialized portion of the parish’s west bank, where St. James High is located.
A parish master plan has indicated more corporations will move to the already-industrialized area and drive homeowners to other residential areas.
With Yuhuang Chemical moving to the site next to St. James High, with the property on the other side of the school available for purchase and with the school’s rear property line located along the Union Pacific Railway, the high school is “completely boxed in” by industry, Luce said.
He said he hopes to move current St. James High students to a new campus on 54 acres near La. 3127 and La. 20 in Vacherie by the time Yuhuang Chemical begins construction at the site of the former school.
Baton Rouge attorney Jerry Jones, who represents Yuhuang Chemical, said company officials hoped to break ground at the school site by the third quarter of 2015 with construction completed in two and a half years.
The school has been appraised at $10 million, Luce said.
The cost to build a new high school complex at a new site is estimated at $30 million, school officials have said.