After a two-month delay, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday recommended GraceHebert Architects of Baton Rouge to design a new school on 20 vacant acres near Jefferson Terrace Elementary.
Without discussion, the board voted 8-0 in favor of hiring of the firm; board member Kenyetta Nelson-Smith was absent. The board is expected to ratify the hiring when it meets again May 17.
The plan is to build a K-8 school at a location known as “Jefferson Home Sites.” The new two-story school, which could cost as much as $32.9 million, would replace 60-year-old Jefferson Terrace Elementary and expand into middle school grades. The new school is scheduled to open in August 2020.
A nine-member internal architectural selection committee picked GraceHebert to design the new school. The School Board, however, on March 8 delayed the hiring, saying school officials first needed to get approval to change the grade configuration of the school to a K-8.
In 2008, when voters renewed a 1-cent sales tax earmarked for education, they approved building either a middle school on the property or a pre-K to 12 magnet school. A component of the sales tax is that a special citizen-led Oversight Committee that meets twice a year has to sign off on any substantial changes in named construction projects like this one.
On Monday, the Oversight Committee met and approved the change in the grade configuration. The School Board met briefly that same night in a special meeting and likewise approved the shift to building a K-8 school.
Superintendent Warren Drake noted that a K-8 design was the most popular of several possible options when school officials held a community forum on Oct. 10, 2017, at Jefferson Terrace Elementary that attracted about 100 people.
Drake said there’s enough room on the property to potentially to add a high school on the grounds in the future.
The 20 acres in question are behind the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana offices off Bluebonnet Boulevard and about three blocks from the elementary school at 9902 Cal Road. Both the Cal Road property and the 20 acres were donated to the school system decades ago when the subdivision was built, but only the elementary school was constructed. That school currently educates about 450 students from preschool to fifth grade.