DENHAM SPRINGS — Denham Springs students will begin the school year Thursday with more space, better technology and a reinvigorated staff following the completion of two expansion projects on the high school and freshman campuses.
The newly dedicated Coach Louis “Loody” Carlisle Building at Denham Springs High School offers more than 21,000 square feet of classrooms, science labs and a Pro-Start kitchen where students can earn a commercial culinary certificate, Principal Kelly Jones said during the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday.
And Denham Springs Freshman High now boasts an expanded 26,000-square-foot cafeteria and science wing, with new classrooms, computer and science labs, and the capacity to seat 360 students at mealtimes, Principal Ken Magee said.
The projects, which cost $3.4 million and $3.9 million respectively, were funded through reserves in the Denham Springs district’s construction budget, School Board member Buddy Mincey Jr. said.
With an average of 415 new students per year during the past 15 years, Livingston Parish schools are under continuous pressure to expand, Superintendent Bill Spear said.
The new facilities will help the Denham Springs area accommodate a growing population while also enhancing day-to-day instruction, Spear said.
Faculty and staff on both campuses have been working to get the facilities ready for students’ arrival Thursday, school officials said.
High school chemistry teacher Mary Gail Yeates was wiping down lab tables Wednesday morning and stowing away new sensor and probe equipment that she said can instantaneously provide the kind of chemical analysis that used to take entire afternoons to complete.
“Our technology director, Sandra Brewer, has really upgraded us to the max, and we are so excited to put all the new equipment to good use,” Yeates said.
The classrooms and labs also will be equipped with SmartBoards and laptops with docking stations, she said.
Meanwhile, at the freshman campus, Food Services Manager Ann Lejeune supervised incoming deliveries and the stocking of a pantry and kitchen that she said tripled her operating space.
“We won’t be backing into each other all the time anymore, everything is laid out so well, and the air flow is so much better, so much cooler in here,” Lejeune said. “My ladies are really loving it and said they’re going to stick with us a few more years now.”
Lejeune said she didn’t know how late she would be on campus Wednesday night preparing for the start of school, but it would all be worth it in the morning.
“I’ve got my menus planned already, and I’m ready to go,” she said.
Shirley Carlisle said she was surprised to learn the new high school building would be named in honor of her husband, a former School Board member, Denham Springs principal and football coach who died in July 2011.
He always wanted to be a part of the education system, but never to be singled out, she said.
Butch Wax , former Denham Springs coach and principal, listed Carlisle’s many accomplishments during the dedication ceremony: all-around athlete at his McComb, Miss., high school in 1948; recognized in the Hall of Fame at Southwest Mississippi Junior College; served two years in the Korean War; and played on Southeastern Louisiana University’s undefeated 1954 conference champion team.
Also, Carlisle led the Assumption High School football team to the championship in 1964; became coach at Denham Springs in 1965, leading the Yellow Jackets to three district titles and a state runner-up finish in a 10-year period; served as principal in 1975-85; then became a School Board member for 24 years before retiring in 2010.
“Louis Carlisle left his name everywhere he went,” Wax said. “His name will always be remembered, and he will continue to set the standard for all who come behind him.”