LIVINGSTON — The Livingston Parish School Board approved plans Jan. 24 to convert two buildings on the former Southside Elementary campus into educational space for Denham Springs High School to house a new satellite STEM & Robotics Center.
The DSHS STEM & Robotics Center will offer courses in partnership with LSU that are designed to enrich learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The center will be under the direction of the Denham Springs High School administration.
“We are extremely excited about the opportunities this educational addition will bring to students at Denham Springs High School and Denham Springs Freshman High School,” School Board President Buddy Mincey Jr. said.
Mincey noted that the satellite campus is a “best use” plan for utilizing the campus’ vacated facilities, which are valued at $2.1 million.
The funding plan approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild the three Denham Springs schools severely damaged by the August 2016 flood included the relocation of Southside Elementary to the 27-acre location of Southside Junior High on La. 16. However, two of the buildings on the Southside Elementary campus — the multipurpose building and cafeteria building, which includes five classrooms and a large meeting space — were not substantially damaged because they were constructed at higher elevations. FEMA agreed to help the district pay to restore those facilities.
“These were two of the newer additions to that campus, so they weathered the floodwaters better than the rest of the campus. We certainly wanted to make best use of these facilities, and to utilize them as a satellite campus for enrichment courses made perfect sense,” Mincey said.
Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said the demolition and refurbishment of the surviving structures will be completed before the start of next school year. He said curriculum supervisors have already made plans on classes that will be available.
High School Curriculum Supervisor Jody Purvis said some of the courses planned for the 2019-2020 school year include Intro to Computational Thinking, Digital Storytelling and Intro to Engineering. He said school officials also hope to expand course offerings at the satellite location to include a suite of courses focusing on digital media and engineering.
“We have wanted to offer additional courses at Denham Springs High School for some time, but the limited classroom space on campus restricted what we could do. With this new satellite campus, we can offer courses that allow our students to experience specialized instruction in STEM courses. We believe this will prepare students for success in the ever-changing, high-tech job market,” Purvis said. “It’s really a positive outcome of the tragedy that occurred from the flood."