The Central school district is debating whether to keep its lone high school at its longtime home at 10200 Brookside Drive, or to build a new campus on a large tract of land that used to house the Greenwell Springs mental hospital.
The Central School Board has given Superintendent Jason Fountain permission to hire an outside consultant to assess facilities at the high school, built in 1973, to see if it makes better sense to maintain its traditional role or whether to use it for some other educational purpose.
Fountain, who is still searching for a firm to do the assessment and hopes to have a report back by June that will help inform a master facilities plan he hopes to have done by this fall.
“What I’ve said from the time we started is we want everyone in world-class facilities,” Fountain said.
Central built a new middle and an intermediate school in 2012. Tanglewood Elementary was remodeled after the 2016 flood, which leaves Central High and Bellingrath Hills Elementary as the only two Central schools not remodeled or built new.
The high school educates nearly 1,400 students, 130 more than it did five years ago.
If Central High is rebuilt, it would move two miles northeast to property just north of the intersection of Hooper and Greenwell Springs roads along the banks of the Amite River. That property was the home of a state hospital complex that closed in spring 2012 and was later acquired by Central.
Fountain said any facilities plan would require going to voters with a bond proposition, but he said any such vote is a ways away.
The board also gave Fountain the green light at its March 11 meeting to hire a demographer to make a detailed projection of the likely school-age-population in Central over the next five years and to offer a general trend analysis for the following five years.
Fountain said he's in talks with demographer Mike Hefner to provide such a report by May. Hefner is a Lafayette Parish School Board member who recently completed a demographic study of East Baton Rouge Parish schools,
“All we are trying to do is to be proactive about planning for the future,” Fountain said.