DENHAM SPRINGS — Livingston Parish Public School leaders hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking Sept. 10 for the new $45 million, K-8 Southside Campus that will be constructed in Denham Springs to replace two schools destroyed during the August 2016 flood.

Superintendent Joe Murphy welcomed community and school leaders, and he gave special thanks to U.S. Congressman Garret Graves for working with the district to gain federal funding for the new construction.

“We would not be standing here today without Congressman Graves’ leadership and dedicated pursuit to secure the funding we needed to rebuild these schools,” Murphy said. “Much thanks for his efforts to reduce the National Flood Insurance Program penalty against our schools following the flood. That action alone saved our district $17 million — and that savings will go a long way in providing state-of-the-art facilities filled with technology, hands-on laboratories and instructional material for our students.”

Murphy noted that the new campus was designed with the input of teachers, staff and curriculum leaders to maximize its efficiency and learning potential. The architectural design of the new campus was done by Alvin Fairburn & Associates of Denham Springs.

The new two-story campus will incorporate Southside Elementary (K-5) and Southside Junior High (6-8). Most of the original campus facilities for the two schools were demolished to make way for new construction. School officials opted not to rebuild Southside Elementary at its original site on Range Avenue but to relocate it to the site of the 27-acre Southside Junior High on La. 16. The property on Range Avenue is now home to the Denham Springs High School STEM and Robotics Center.

The main entrances of both schools will face La. 16. The elementary campus will accommodate 700 students and will occupy the right-facing side of the complex. The junior high will accommodate 1,000 students and occupy the left-facing side of the complex. The rear section will include a band room, gymnasium, multipurpose room and cafeteria that can be sectioned off for the different grade levels or opened to accommodate large gatherings. A two-story, glass-walled library will occupy the center of the main building, near the administrative offices, overlooking a large outdoor courtyard.

The new campus is being built to FEMA specifications hopefully to avoid suffering flood damage, according to a news release. The new campus will be built at an elevation 9½ feet higher than the current elevation.

“This day marks the end of a long, arduous journey. It’s hard to imagine how much we have overcome since we were faced with only debris and destruction at this site. But more importantly, this marks the first day a new journey for this community — one of restoration and progress and brighter, better days ahead,” Murphy said.

“Our critics said we couldn’t do this,” he added. “But today we stand ready to rebuild the last of those schools damaged by the floods. We are moving forward — that’s what we do. We prevail. We move forward. We overcome.”

Southside Junior High and Southside Elementary currently occupy temporary facilities adjacent to Juban Parc Junior High and Juban Parc Elementary, respectively.

Site preparation for the two-school campus is scheduled to begin later this month, with full construction slated to be complete by the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

Other speakers for the celebration included state Sen. J. Rogers Pope, state Rep. Buddy Mincey Jr., former state Sen. Dale Erdey, School Board Vice President Jan Benton and School Board member Brad Harris.

Denham Springs Elementary is the third school that was substantially damaged by the August 2016 flood. It occupies a temporary campus next to Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Springs but will move to a new two-story facility that is being built at its original site on Range Avenue. That campus is expected to be rebuilt at a cost of $14.5 million.