Vacant for decades, 20 acres in Jefferson Terrace subdivision may soon become something other than a grassy field — but what that might be is still very much in doubt.
More than 100 people showed up Tuesday at Jefferson Terrace Elementary to give East Baton Rouge Parish public school officials their ideas.
Several residents of the subdivision expressed concerns that building a new school there would increase traffic and strain drainage and other infrastructure. “How can you keep the buses and cars from clogging up the streets?” asked resident Jeff Liberty.
A few speakers urged building a school somewhere else, especially if a new school will house high school students.
Board member Mike Gaudet, who represents residents near LSU, urged the crowd to avoid the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome and to instead help the board figure out how to offer more for high school students in the area.
“We don’t have a traditional high school near here,” Gaudet said, noting there’s nothing along those lines between McKinley and Woodlawn high schools.
The 20 vacant 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 opened in 1958 and currently educates about 450 students from preschool to fifth grade.
In 2008, voters across East Baton Rouge Parish gave their approval to building a new school on the property, either a middle school or a pre-K to 12 magnet school. They did so as part of the renewal of a 1-cent sales tax that called for a long list of new construction, including renovating and expanding Baton Rouge Magnet High and rebuilding Lee High. Building on this property, described as “Jefferson Home Site,” was the last project on that list, and $32.9 million was set aside.
East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake is asking the School Board on Thursday t…
Nine years later, it’s finally about to happen. Maybe.
Board member David Tatman, who represents the area, said the 1-cent sales tax includes a citizen oversight committee that can alter projects. One possible change, Tatman said, would be to not build on those 20 acres and perhaps swap it for better land somewhere else.
In his presentation Tuesday, Superintendent Warren Drake indicated that was a possibility when he told the audience that a new school could possibly be built on a donated site rather than those 20 acres. Afterward, Drake downplayed that notion, saying a land swap was discussed months ago, but now he’d like to build on the Jefferson Home Sites property.
The plan voters approved in 2008 calls for design work for this new $32.9 million school to start in December and the whole project to be completed by July 2020.
Amanda Harris, a nearby resident, said she’s not keen on a high school but likes the idea of building a middle school on the property.
“This parish is in need of a high-quality middle school,” she said.
Harris said she appreciated the school system having Tuesday’s meeting, saying it was more organized than she expected.
Heather Newton, who also lives in Jefferson Terrace, said she’d prefer having a new elementary school closer to home with gifted classes like the one her son attends miles away at Parkview Elementary.
Keyoka Lane-Butler came with her husband, Eric. Their two boys attend Jefferson Terrace Elementary now. They were some of the only folks with children in the school in attendance Tuesday. She said she’d like a new elementary school building to replace the 59-year-old one her children attend now.
Lane-Butler said she also would like the school to crack down on families who don’t live in the school’s attendance zone who have moved in since the August 2016 floods and aren’t as connected to the community. She said these new students have been able to attend because they are considered homeless due to the flood and more keep coming.
“It’s gotten worse this year,” she said.