The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board is planning to debate Thursday night whether Lee High will be rebuilt on property at its current home at 1105 Lee Drive.
The board, meeting as a committee of the whole, is being asked by Superintendent Bernard Taylor to rebuild the school where it is at an estimated cost of $58.5 million.
A couple of board members, however, have suggested they would rather see the school built at another location, a move that would likely delay construction for perhaps a year. Such a move also would allow the recently reopened high school a chance to remain at its current location while construction occurred elsewhere.
The board has several items on its agenda, including a review of maps developed for all 11 School Board districts in the wake of the 2010 U.S. Census and a review of the Fair Share program created in fall 2011 in an attempt to recruit minority and women-owned businesses for potential contracts with the district.
The meeting will be at 5 p.m. at the School Board Office, 1050 S. Foster Drive. Recommendations made Thursday will not be finalized until the board’s regular monthly meeting Nov. 15.
Board member Jerry Arbour had suggested a new location for Lee High. He said he will not fight rebuilding the school where it is, but said state Department of Education takeovers of low-performing schools have made it important that the school system add more facilities.
Lee High was closed three years ago in part to avoid such a takeover.
“I would like to have been able to find another site because, right now, we’re a facility poor district,” he said.
Curt Soderberg, with CSRS/Garrard Program Management, the joint partnership that oversees most school construction in Baton Rouge, laid out the differences in the two options during a Sept. 28 presentation to the board.
Rebuilding in place would involve tearing down the one-story school and, starting in spring 2014, rebuilding it as a two-story building that would house roughly 1,200 students, Soderberg said. Building a similar school in a new location would require spending $3 million of that budget to buy land and to pay for expected wetlands mitigation and also would likely delay construction for a year, Soderberg said.
Rebuilding Lee High in its current location, however, would mean that in fall 2013, just a year after reopening, the small high school would have to move to another place for two years. That “swing space” would have to house the 226 freshman and sophomore students who go to Lee High now, as well as hundreds more as the school expands in size in the next two years, and a planned magnet program is established there in fall 2013.
The School Board has examined several possible places to relocate, but all have shortcomings.
Arbour said he likes the idea of using Valley Park Alternative School as swing space because the former middle school is large enough to house 750 students and wouldn’t need much work.
Such a move, however, mean Valley Park would have to find a new home. The school for students expelled from middle and high schools had 174 students enrolled as of Wednesday.
Lee High recently served as a swing space for Baton Rouge Magnet High School students while that school was being renovated and expanded.