Six public schools under construction in Baton Rouge are set to open in August, in time for the start of the 2018-19 school year.

And at least one other project, the rebuilding of Park Elementary, which is not opening until August 2019, is being designed as a so-called 21st Century school. Futuristic designs like the one at Park are the new template for most public schools set to be built in East Baton Rouge Parish in the years to come. Such designs, however, are proving more expensive than traditional school designs.

Of the six under-construction schools opening soon, two are being built by the East Baton Rouge Parish school system: Broadmoor Elementary and the new EBR Career and Technical Education Center. Both are set to be ready for faculty and students in early August — the first day of school is Aug. 9 — though contractors will have “punch list” items still to complete.

Superintendent Warren Drake, who recently visited both facilities, said he expects people will be very impressed by Broadmoor.

“They are just going to be blown away when those kids get in school,” he said. “It’s a massive structure. It gets everyone back off the street, including the bus traffic and the car riders.”

The career center, which goes by the acronym EBR CTEC, has a more industrial look, with large work bays, exposed wiring and utilities, and fewer traditional classrooms. Drake said the facility is designed to be flexible and change as the local workforce demands change. And it can grow as well.

“We built it so you could expand … just add those bays right on down the road,” Drake said.

Broadmoor Elementary, a one-story neighborhood school before it was torn down, is now two stories. Guy Hopkins Construction of Baton Rouge, the general contractor, is leading the $21.7 million project. The school's 500 students have spent the past two years six miles away, setting up shop temporarily at the former Valley Park Junior High. Broadmoor's rebuilt home at 9650 Goodwood Blvd. will be big enough for 700 students.

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EBR CTEC is a new school that’s been planned for more than a decade and has had strong backing from the local business community. The $17-million facility behind Baton Rouge Community College’s automotive training center on Lobdell Boulevard is being built by Lincoln Builders of Ruston. It will offer teenagers the chance to take specialized career and skilled trade courses while still in high school, starting in four areas: computer science, medical fields, skilled crafts and manufacturing.

EBR CTEC will educate seniors from the traditional public high schools for part of the day, up to 150 in the morning and 150 in the afternoon. The initial students will be seniors who have a C average or above in career classes they've taken and who complete an entrance interview. Drake said interest has been limited initially but he thinks it will pick up after school starts.

“I think people need to see things in action before we’ll get up and moving there,” Drake said.

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The other four new public schools in Baton Rouge are charter schools, which are public schools operated privately via charters, or contracts. The new schools are part of a wave of new charter schools opening in the Capital City.

Three of the newly constructed charter schools are new schools being operated by highly touted out-of-state charter management organizations opening their first locations in Louisiana. The fourth is finally constructing a permanent home after operating in two different locations since it opened in 2014.

  • BASIS Baton Rouge, at the corner of Stumberg Lane and Woman’s Way, is a 40,000 square-foot school being built by Buquet & LeBlanc of Baton Rouge. The Tucson, Arizona-based BASIS plans to eventually educate Baton Rouge students in grades kindergarten to 12, but will start with about 350 students in five grades.
  • IDEA Bridge, 1500 N. Airway Drive, is a 75,000-square-foot facility, one of two being opened this year by Rio Grande Valley, Texas-based IDEA Public Schools. The general contractor is Milton. J. Womack Inc. IDEA Bridge will serve the north Baton Rouge area, starting with 528 students. Both IDEA schools plan to eventually educate students in grades kindergarten to 12, but IDEA Bridge will start with about 500 students in six grades.
  • IDEA Innovation, 7800 Innovation Park Drive, is 73,000-square foot facility that aims to serve students in south Baton Rouge. The general contractor is Buquet & LeBlanc. In its first year, IDEA Innovation is serving about 450 students in four grades.
  • UP Elementary, 7802 Howell Blvd., is a 40,000-square-foot facility being built by J.F. Juge Construction in Prairieville. UP is a home-grown charter school founded by Meghan Turner that just finished its fourth school year with 276 students enrolled in grades K-3. UP plans to expand to fourth grade next year and finish with a fifth grade in 2019-20. The new facility will have room enough for about 600 students.

Both BASIS and IDEA landed Type 1 charters from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, meaning they can draw students only from within the boundaries of the parish school system. UP, by contrast, is independent of the school system, with a Type 2 charter from the state that allows it draw from anywhere in Louisiana.

The schools being built by the East Baton Rouge Parish district are proving more expensive than the under-construction charter schools. For instance, the construction cost of IDEA Bridge is roughly $145 a square foot, compared with $197 a square foot at Broadmoor Elementary.

Marcus Williams, program director with CSRS/Tillage Construction, the private partnership that oversees most school construction in Baton Rouge, explained that East Baton Rouge Parish schools are planned to last for 50 years. Some of the charter schools he’s seen look to be built for much shorter lifespans, as short as just 10 years.

Broadmoor Elementary is typical of other elementary schools the district has rebuilt in the past decade, such as Claiborne and Progress elementary schools. The next two schools up for reconstruction, Park and Jefferson Terrace elementary schools, are being designed as so-called 21st Century schools. They are set to open in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Park Elementary, for instance, will have miniature “school houses” where three carpeted classrooms are clustered around a collaborative space that looks like a futuristic living room. The rooms also feature mobile interactive whiteboards and movable furniture.

Broadmoor Elementary, while not getting a futuristic building design, is receiving some of the 21st century school furniture that newer schools are getting.

The new designs cost more. Park Elementary’s construction cost is $22 more per square foot than Broadmoor Elementary's. And Park is expected to educate just 450 students, compared with up to 700 students at Broadmoor Elementary.

Williams said the newer designs are worth the expense because they make use of a wider variety of space both indoors and outdoors for teaching and learning.

“In a 21st century design, there are more common spaces and more corridors that can be used for more than just moving people around,” he said.

Park could’ve cost more: Williams said Percy J. Matherne of Baton Rouge’s $16.7 million bid was about $1.3 million less than originally estimated.

Regardless, Williams said, he thinks the newer schools are better for education. “You have a better learning experience with this kind of building that fits the kids of today.”

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.