LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School Board voted 5-4 Wednesday to give its preliminary approval for the sale of up to $30 million in limited tax-revenue bonds to fund school renovations and new construction.
The bond money could fund $30 million in projects at Green T. Lindon Elementary, Youngsville Middle, Lafayette High, Northside High and David Thibodaux STEM Academy. However, those projects are “draft items” and any funded projects would need a final approval from the board, Superintendent Pat Cooper said.
He said those projects could change after a review of the district’s facilities master plan, which was also approved during Wednesday’s meeting.
Board members Mark Cockerham, Kermit Bouillion, Shelton Cobb, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion voted in favor of beginning the bond sale process. Board members Greg Awbrey, Mark Allen Babineaux, Tommy Angelle and Rae Trahan voted against the recommendation.
The draft list of items involves: $6 million in renovations and construction at Lindon; $2 million for a new classroom wing at Youngsville Middle; $4 million to complete renovations at Northside High; $10 million for renovation and construction at Lafayette High; and $8 million for new construction at David Thibodaux STEM Academy.
Some board members asked that a decision on starting the bond sale process wait for a detailed list of how the money may be spent at each school.
“Let’s have an idea of where it’s going to go and how it’s going to be spent before we go get it,” Angelle said. “Maybe we need less … maybe we need more.”
Youngsville Mayor Wilson Viator attended Wednesday’s meeting to ask the board to consider addressing overcrowding at his city’s schools. Architect Kirby Pecot told the board that the school could be enlarged with the use of property donated from Young’s Industries, a Youngsville business.
Pecot said at least three new classroom buildings, each with eight classrooms and restrooms, could be built on the donated property.
“We could start construction this year because they do not interfere with the existing classrooms,” Pecot told the board.
Removing the existing portable buildings from the campus opens up room for a teacher parking lot and additional playground area, Pecot said.
The school houses more than 800 students, with the majority, 507 students, in classes held in nine portable buildings, he said.
The new construction could house as many as 576 students, Pecot said.
Developer Robert Daigle, who is a partner with Young’s Industries in Youngsville’s existing neighborhood development Sugar Mill Pond and a new development that will be constructed adjacent to Lindon, told the board that the land is the board’s if it wants it.
“In a nutshell, what I’m telling this board is that we in the private sector care deeply about what’s happening in public education today,” Daigle said.
Bouillion said the donation is rare and left him speechless, noting the district’s more than 30,000 children will benefit from the donation.
“You have 30-plus thousand thank-you’s there,” he said.
Because the item was on the agenda as a presentation only, the board could not take any action Wednesday on the offer.
Also on Wednesday, the board created a committee to review its facilities master plan, which was presented to the board in 2010 and which included $1.1 billion in facility needs. The first phase of those needs could have been implemented in a $560 million bond proposal, but voters rejected the bond issue last fall. Some board members have rejected recent facility spending recommended by Cooper because they’ve said those recommendations conflicted with priorities set in the first phase of the plan.
The board also now has a district turnaround plan, an educational plan that needs to be aligned with the master plan, said Sarah Walker, chairwoman of the facilities master plan oversight committee.
Walker told the board it would be “simple” to revise the master plan and merge the district’s educational and facility priorities.
The master plan review committee will include the board’s executive committee (Cobb, Beasley and Babineaux); a representative of the central office staff; and a member of the facilities master plan oversight committee.
Awbrey recommended the review be considered during a board workshop. That idea was approved in a 7-1 vote with Trahan voting against and Bouillion abstaining.