A vision for the Lafayette Parish School System’s first newly constructed high school in 47 years is slowly starting to take shape with input from residents, school officials and the architects who will put those ideas into their design.
That vision involves a three-story school that offers students an option to study the fields of energy and natural resources.
Over a three-day planning session that began Thursday, architects with Abell+Crozier+Davis and Pfluger Architects organized planning sessions — charrettes — to sort out features for the high school to be built on Section 16 land — School Board-owned property — in the Youngsville area.
After the initial two days of planning, architects presented four design schemes to the group Monday with the group voting on its preferred choice.
“They want this to be an innovative school focused on energy, agriculture and natural resources, so it was important to look at where those career and technical classes would be located,” Dudley said.
A three-story design with an atrium open to the school’s cafeteria, library and career and technical education classes won a majority of the group’s vote. A more-complete design of that three-story plan will be presented to the School Board within the next month, said Michelle Dudley, of Pfluger Architects, a Houston-based firm that specializes in educational architecture.
Nancy Trahan, who lives in Youngsville, said she’s glad parents’ voices are part of the planning process.
“The things that are of concern to parents today are not the same things that parents needed to think about years ago,” Trahan said. “We’re concerned about security and exercise.”
The more compact three-story design means students will be circulating up and down rather than horizontally, and that use of stairs could be good for students’ health, noted Carr Hornbuckle, of Pfluger.
“It creates a lot more movement throughout the day. From the health point of view, we’ve gotten a lot of good feedback, because you’re using the building more,” Hornbuckle told the group Monday.
That three-story plan also suggests building locker rooms underneath the gyms as another way to condense the footprint of those buildings. Until an auditorium is built on the campus, the atrium also could serve as a space for student performances with a small stage area outside the library.
“It helps with community buy-in and we get all those perspectives,” Eric Crozier, of Abell+Crozier+Davis, said of the charrette process. “We had a mix of business leaders and educators in the group.”
Through the planning sessions, the groups came to a consensus that the school should have a modern design inside and out with open spaces for students to collaborate — even the cafeteria should be more nontraditional and have more of a food-court feel, Dudley said.
Parent Ella Arsement said she encouraged designers to plan with the future in mind.
“Be thoughtful about what we’re building because we may not be able to replace it for 60 years,” Arsement said. “They want it to be a career and technical school, so if we do something like that, it needs to relate to the future.”
Some ideas for the energy studies involve the use of bagasse — a waste by-product of sugarcane production — to produce biofuels, and solar and wind energy. Other ideas presented Monday include courtyards, a greenhouse for the campus, a coffee shop separate from the cafeteria, a two-story library, practice gyms and a separate competition gym.
The estimated cost for the high school is about $66 million. The board’s finance committee has recommended the sale of $120 million in bonds to pay for the first phase of the project, which would involve a campus for 1,400 students, with subsequent phases expanding student capacity to 1,750 as well as additional athletic facilities. Preliminary discussions about the project also suggested the possibility of future construction phases to increase student capacity to 2,000 students.
The goal is to open the doors of the high school by August 2017 to freshmen and sophomores.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.