School Board would get opportunity to expand academy
LAFAYETTE — South Louisiana Community College’s chancellor has asked the Lafayette Parish School Board to put up $1 million toward a $17 million building on the college campus.
What the school district would get in exchange is the opportunity to expand its Early College Academy, a high school on the college campus.
Students at the academy can earn an associate’s degree from SLCC at the same time they are earning a high school diploma.
About 250 Lafayette Parish students are enrolled in the program and the additional space would allow the program to expand to 1,000 students, Chancellor Natalie Harder said in an email Thursday.
“There is nothing like that on the drawing board for any parish in this state,” she said.
The program is housed in the college’s main academic building, which the college outgrew years ago.
The college received a commitment from the state of $15 million to build a new building, if the college raises $2 million from the community, Harder said.
SLCC’s request of $1 million from the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority is still pending.
The School Board’s $1 million investment would provide about 20,000 square feet of space in the new building — a separate wing — for the Early College Academy.
Construction on the 83,400-square-foot building won’t begin until 2015, but a written commitment from the board by the end of this year would help ensure construction stays on track, she said.
The School Board could make a decision on Harder’s request by next month.
“Do we have the money?” board member Tehmi Chassion asked at Wednesday’s meeting.
“For a million dollars to get a new high school, I will pinch his pennies,” Superintendent Pat Cooper said, pointing to Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry.
Harder told the board it could split the payment: $500,000 by the end of 2014 and the other half by the end of 2015.
The expansion of the academy will be gradual, to maintain the school’s quality, Harder said.
The academy enrolls students from every high school zone in the parish, she said, noting that about 20 percent of the students were previously home-schooled and about 3 percent previously attended private or parochial schools.
“If we can get a high school in this parish for $1 million, I think it’s a steal,” School Board member Kermit Bouillion said.
“We’d be crazy to pass up that deal.”