ZACHARY — Five construction projects occupy the attention of Zachary Community School Board members as the halfway point of the school year nears.
Voters in the school district have approved $129 million in construction bonds since the district began operations in 2003. Property owners pay a 36-mill tax to retire the bonds.
The board will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 6 p.m. Wednesday for the new $8 million visual and performing arts theater on the Zachary High School campus.
The theater was finished more than a year behind schedule after the original contractor defaulted on the job in 2010, but students and teachers have been using the facility since classes began in August.
A new $18 million elementary school is scheduled to be finished by Dec. 14 on a 69-acre tract on Rollins Place, the extension of Rollins Road. The district’s Early Learning Center for pre-kindergarten students is nearby on the same tract.
Superintendent-elect Scott Devillier said the opening of the new Rollins Place Elementary for first- and second-graders will be the next step in a plan to gradually increase the capacity of each of the district’s elementary schools to 500 students.
Board members want the improvements to continue the district’s grade-cluster concept — each grade housed at one school — for as long as possible.
When Rollins Place opens, second-graders now at Zachary Elementary School will move, leaving only the third grade on the 39th Street campus.
First-graders, now at Northwestern Elementary, will move to Rollins Place, leaving Northwestern as a kindergarten-only campus.
With the second grade gone from Zachary Elementary, construction will begin on a two-story classroom building facing 39th Street that also will have new administrative offices. The new building will replace all of the temporary buildings now on the campus and allow the fourth grade to be moved from Copper Mill Elementary in 2014.
The construction also will include a new media center and a new kitchen and cafeteria. Two of the school’s original buildings will be torn down.
“They’re dilapidated,” Devillier said.
The board’s Facilities Committee has recommended an $11.3 million budget for the Zachary Elementary project, and the full board will consider it Thursday to allow advertising for construction bids.
Planning soon will begin for a new physical education gymnasium and classrooms at Copper Mill Elementary that eventually will allow the sixth grade, now at Northwestern Middle School, to join the fifth-graders at Copper Mill in 2014, Devillier said.
Northwestern Middle then would have only the seventh and eighth grades, he said.
The fifth project, construction of a vocational building at Port Hudson Career Academy, is scheduled to begin this month, Devillier said. The building will have four classrooms with adjoining workshop bays for teaching automotive technology, welding, construction techniques and industrial production processes.
The board accepted the $1.62 million bid of Devier Construction for the work in August, but the construction start was delayed while city-parish permits were obtained for the project, Devillier said.
After the public ribbon-cutting program, the public’s next opportunity to see the new theater will be a 6 p.m. Nov. 13 performance by the Campina Grande Chamber Choir of Brazil and the Zachary United Methodist Church choir.
The main theater seats 430 and includes a professional flying system for quickly hoisting and lowering scenery, lights and other theatrical devices. Drama students also have access to a large “black box theater” in a separate performance area.
The building houses large practice rooms for the high school band and choir, individual instrument rooms, audition rooms and classrooms for visual arts such as photography, painting and sculpture.
Band Director Jason Venable, now in his 13th year at the school, is pleased with the facility.
“I don’t know if I can put it in words, but it’s something we band directors sometimes dream about but never see. At the risk of using a cliché, it’s like a dream come true,” Venable said.
“It’s a beautiful building,” Devillier said.
During the summer, the board expanded the high school’s cafeteria and kitchens into the band’s old practice room. The new facility features two traditional meal serving lines, a salad bar line and a hot sandwich line.
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