‘Old’ N.P. Moss in Lafayette has new mission

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- N.P. Moss Preparatory Academy Librarian Clint Guillory shelves books at the newly-remodeled school Friday morning.
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- N.P. Moss Preparatory Academy Librarian Clint Guillory shelves books at the newly-remodeled school Friday morning.

Ceremony marks completion of $4 million campus renovation

The word “old” or “annex” is no longer attached to the two-story, 90-year-old school at the corner of Moss Street and Mudd Avenue.

Until last year, it was known as the N.P. Moss Annex, the site of the “old N.P. Moss” and served as a site for several Lafayette Parish School System programs.

Now, after about $4 million in renovations, a new name and a new purpose as the district’s alternative programs for students, the school stands as a symbol of “rebirth” for the district, said Superintendent Pat Cooper during a ceremony Friday celebrating the completed renovations.

As N.P. Moss Preparatory Academy, the site has nearly 200 students in grades 5-12 who have been removed from their original school behavioral or other disciplinary infractions. Last month, the district entered into a contract with AMIKids to operate a program for severely troubled students on the campus.

The Moss Prep campus was open to students in August, however, the renovations to the main building weren’t complete until November. The building was constructed in the 1920s with additions made in the 1950s. The auditorium’s unique decorative features and its wooden seats have been refurbished and upgrades have also been made to the school’s library, cafeteria and gym.

Cooper said the renovation also is a “symbol of things to come” because improvements are needed throughout the district and the public’s help will be needed to make those changes happen.

Such help came from David Welch, CEO of Stone Energy, who donated the cost to landscape the school.

Before school leaders took visitors on tours of the improvements, Cooper told them not to be shocked if they heard foul language from students while walking through the school.

“You’ve got to remember, these would be the kids out on the street robbing and stealing. ...They need to be educated. They need to be nurtured,” Cooper said.

Later, on a tour with a small group, the school’s Principal Jody Duhon referenced Cooper’s comment saying, “We’re not going to change 10 years of behavior in six months.”

Each student who enters the Prep program has an individualized behavior plan that set out improvements and expectations, she explained. Students who achieve 80 percent success with their plan for 30 consecutive days may return to their home school.

“They get one shot to go back” — and if their behavior lands them back at Moss Prep, those students remain for the rest of the year, Duhon said.

She said some students come into the program with “pages” of discipline write-ups, but “then, they come to us and we have no issues.”

Duhon added that some students perform better in the small class sizes and need the additional support.

Students performing well behaviorally may choose to stay on the campus rather than return to their home school, she said.

The school has also started recognizing those students who achieve at least 80 percent success with a monthly celebration that comes with rewards, Duhon said.

The positive reinforcement makes a difference in students’ progress in the program, she said.

“They need positive, special attention,” she said.

One portable building on the campus serves as a “time out” room, called “Reflections,” where teachers may send students or students may request a “time out.” The room is staffed by a social worker who helps the student through whatever led to the visit, Duhon said.

Board president Shelton Cobb said the program is needed to help students stay in and complete school.

“All they need to do is be put on the right path,” he said.