Three new schools are now under construction in Prairieville and set to open next school year to meet demand in the fastest-growing part of the parish, where Ascension Parish school officials hope to someday build a new high school.
Two-story Bluff Middle School is taking shape on winding Bluff Road at the same time that two new primary schools are going up: Bluff Ridge Primary on La. 73, set to open in fall of 2020, and Sugar Mill Primary on Germany Road, with a completion date to be announced.
A third new primary school, Bullion Primary, opened in Prairieville at the start of the current school year.
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All four of the new Prairieville schools are among the projects funded by a $120 million construction bond passed by voters in 2016 and were built to address overcrowding.
"It's great to see the development of these new schools," said Troy Gautreau, Ascension Parish School Board vice president. "It takes about five years to plan them."
The board hopes that, one day, students from the new schools will be going to a new high school in Prairieville, as well.
That will be for voters to decide on May 9, in a bond election calling for the extension of an existing 15.08-mill property tax for $140 million in construction projects, including a new high school on Parker Road.
The new Prairieville schools are currently in the Dutchtown High attendance zone.
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The $25 million, 135,000-square-foot Bluff Ridge Middle, which had its ground-breaking in March, sits back from Bluff Road in a scenic landscape rich in live oaks.
Designed by Grace, Hebert, Curtis Architects of Baton Rouge with an open concept, the building's first-floor spaces like the cafeteria and library don't have traditional ceilings but are open to view from the second floor.
Chad Lynch, director of planning and construction for the school district, said Bluff Middle, designed for 850 students, with its "linear, two-story design creates a lot of different spaces," such as several outdoor porches.
A walkway will connect a gym under construction at the back of the school to the main building. Behind the school will be the football field.
The Bluff Middle Bears, the mascot chosen earlier this year by a public survey, will have school colors of teal, black and white.
"People move out here because of our schools," Gautreau said. "Year in and year out, we continue to improve on our academics."
Keeping up with growth in the district is a challenge, he said, but it's important for keeping the student-teacher ratios low.
"That's critical for the development of children," Gautreau said.