LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana Bond Commission last month approved the Lafayette Parish School Board’s request to sell $30 million in bonds for construction projects and the system is devising a spending plan to present to the board at its Sept. 19 meeting, Superintendent Pat Cooper said.
Cooper said Friday that staff is considering the following projects: $8 million for new specialized labs and other renovations at David Thibodaux Magnet STEM Academy; $8 million to alleviate classroom overcrowding at G.T. Lindon Elementary; $4 million to complete renovations at Northside High; and $2 million for a new classroom wing at Youngsville Middle. He said the cost estimates may change after staff’s analysis of possible projects.
If the School Board approves the proposed list of projects, the community could start seeing work being done at some schools by Nov. 1, Cooper said. The district also has about $3 million set aside to fund major projects, he said.
Cooper said he hopes the smaller projects will show the community efficient and cost-effective plans to renovate schools without rebuilding, and he plans to use Northside High as a model.
Earlier this year, the board approved about $2 million in renovations at Northside High. The remaining funding will complete the overhaul, and enough money may be available to build an auditorium on the campus, Cooper said.
“We wanted to be able to say: for this $6 million, you’ll have what looks, acts and feels like a brand-new school,” Cooper said. “Northside High is our poster child for we can renovate instead of tear down.”
The superintendent said the hope is to stretch the $33 million available to include projects for L.J. Alleman Middle, such as construction of an auditorium and possibly a new or expanded cafeteria, and at Lafayette High for a renovation of its auditorium and restrooms.
Both Alleman and Lafayette High were recommended to be rebuilt in the district’s master plan, which was completed in 2010. Voters in October rejected a $560 million property tax proposal to fund the first phase of the master plan.
“The big thing for L.J. Alleman is because it is such a successful and desired school we wanted to really update it in terms of No. 1 — the capacity is horrendous,” he said. “You’ve got 1,000 to 1,200 kids there and they’re serving meals at 10 o’clock in the morning.”
Lindon and Youngsville Middle, both in Youngsville, are targeted for the bond money because of major overcrowding. The city’s mayor, Wilson Viator, also appealed to the board to fix the problem, especially as the city continues to gain new families and another major neighborhood development is planned adjacent to Lindon.
Developers of that neighborhood have said they will donate property near Lindon to help with an expansion. Cooper said talks with the developers are ongoing and details about the land donation may be presented at the Sept. 19 meeting, as well.
About $3.2 million has been set aside to address smaller building issues or “low-hanging fruit projects” identified by principals that would “help make life better” at all schools, Cooper said.
The projects range from additional parking space and drainage issues to covering a concrete slab for an outdoor physical education space in case of rain. “Right now, when it rains, some of these schools have to do physical education in the hallways,” he said.
Cooper said he hopes to rebuild public confidence in the system and board after some opponents of the October bond proposal speculated that a lack of confidence turned voters off to the new property tax.
“We’re trying to be as efficient with the money so taxpayers understand,” he said. “It’s inevitable we’re going to have to put money into the schools if we’re going to have an ‘A’ school district with decent facilities.”