Panel decides to deal with charter proposals first
LAFAYETTE — First things first.
The Lafayette Parish School Board’s executive committee agreed Monday to tackle pending charter school applications and a tax proposal from a community advisory group before exploring building new schools in Youngsville.
On Wednesday, the board will vote on two pending charter applications from groups that have committed to building new schools in the district — specifically in the Youngsville area to alleviate overcrowded classrooms. If the board rejects the proposals, the applicants may appeal to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to open Type 2 charter schools, which will be overseen by BESE rather than the local school board. A decision by BESE on Type 2 applications is likely on Oct. 14.
Board member Mark Allen Babineaux, one of three executive committee members, proposed a daylong workshop to explore the potential of building new schools in Youngsville using existing school plans for Ernest Gallet Elementary or a proposal created a few years ago by University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Community Design Workshop for board-owned property in the Youngsville area.
Regardless of the board’s decision on charter schools, it still has the responsibility to plan for facilities for its students, Babineaux said.
Superintendent Pat Cooper asked the committee, which includes board president Shelton Cobb and vice president Hunter Beasley, to consider waiting until it has more information about the charter schools, as well as the community advisory group’s recommendation on a tax proposal to fund school improvements and education programming, which goes to the board Oct. 16.
“Until we see how this charter thing is going to work out, committing to building a school in a certain place worries me a bit,” Cooper told the committee.
Beasley noted that “if charters come in, we can recognize that we need to do something different because if two charter schools are going to Youngsville, do we need another school?”
Cooper said the board will be presented with another option to alleviate crowding in high schools at the Oct. 16 meeting.
South Louisiana Community College Chancellor Natalie Harder will ask the board to invest $1 million for construction that will help expand the Early College Academy from about 200 students to nearly 1,000. The academy enables high school students to earn a high school diploma in tandem with an associate’s degree.
The college is in line for $15 million from the state for the new health and sciences building, but must raise about $2 million before construction can begin.
Harder’s recent request of $1 million from the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority is still pending.