Ascension School Board examines system needs at workshop

At its annual workshop Tuesday, the Ascension Parish School Board examined its needs and funding strategies for school improvements, expansions and new school construction over the next eight years.

The strategy includes using $42 million from the School Board’s 2013 major construction projects fund to build new freshmen academies at three crowded parish high schools.

The strategy also includes a proposed 2015 bond extension of $111 million over four years and a 2018 proposed bond for $80 million to $100 million, with that figure to be verified in 2017.

The 2015 and 2018 proposed bonds would, if passed, finance construction of three new primary schools, one new middle school and a new high school.

Plans have been drawn up for freshmen academies at East Ascension High School, Dutchtown High School and St. Amant High School, due to enrollment growth above the capacity of the existing facilities, said Chad Lynch, director of planning and construction for the School Board.

A freshmen academy isn’t planned for Donaldsonville High School at this time because enrollment has declined since 2011 from 440 to 418, Lynch said.

The updated cost estimate for the three freshmen academies is $65.4 million, an estimate that addresses “a comprehensive look at overall campus needs for 2,200 (total) students” attending those academies, Lynch said.

School Board members also heard Lynch’s report on top priorities for athletic facilities improvements at the parish’s four high schools.

With a breakout of figures for each high school in the range of $750,000 to $1 million, the total estimate for the improvements — which generally include upgrades or expansions of gyms and track fields — is $3.5 million.

Looking at new schools and additions that will be needed over the next eight years, Lynch told School Board members that the east-side high schools are overcrowded.

Six east-side primary grade schools are overcrowded as well: Oak Grove Primary, Prairieville Primary, Dutchtown Primary, Spanish Lake Primary, Duplessis Primary and Central Primary.

Prairieville Middle and Dutchtown Middle also are overcrowded, Lynch said.

Cost estimates for those projects outside of the freshmen academies and athletics improvements is estimated at approximately $167 million.

Lynch proposed that the School Board plan the next bond election in 2015.