Superintendent Warren Drake has given the go-ahead to Ruston-based Lincoln Builders to start renovating the closed Istrouma High School in Baton Rouge in time to reopen next August.

The renovations, which has been in planning for months, were put out to bid in late summer, but all the bids submitted were rejected because they came in well over budget. The project was then substantially downscaled before being put for a bid a second time. Planned work on the football field, the parking lot and the first floor of one building were among the items set aside. On the second bid opening day on Sept. 8, Lincoln submitted the lowest of three bids – it was the lowest bid the first time – but this time its bid was within budget.

“We are now under way with Istrouma High,” Drake told told the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday.

Lincoln is authorized to do $16.6 million worth of renovations. Of that, $550,000 was an alternate fix up of the high school’s weight room and training center. Drake said Lincoln Builders, which has a Baton Rouge office, has agreed to work with the school system to add back set aside items if the approved work costs less than expected or if other money can be found.

The overall project budget for restoring Istrouma High is about $21.4 million. The money comes from a 1-cent sales tax, first approved by voters in 1998, which funds most school construction.

The Istrouma High School campus has sat empty since May 2014. Istrouma is nearly a century old and moved into its current home at 3730 Winbourne Ave. in 1951.

Drake, who took over as superintendent in June, finally persuaded the state in January to return control of Istrouma to the school system. The school, which had had chronic academic problems, had been taken over by the state in 2012, which then ran the school for two more years before closing it.

The closure sparked protests and reopening the school became a high priority for many alumni and north Baton Rouge civic leaders. The closing came at the same time as other schools in north Baton Rouge closed, most notably Redemptorist High School.

The reopened Istrouma will have a high school as well as a middle school on the same campus. Drake has identified four focus areas for job training: STEM, skilled crafts, hospitality and tourism, and manufacturing. The skilled crafts include carpentry, mechanical drafting and pipe fitting.

A special Istrouma Advisory Council, led by former School Board member Jackie Mims, has been meeting for months to help shape the new school.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier