Career Academy finds new home in Baptist church

A career-oriented high school in Baton Rouge has dropped its plans to relocate to Baton Rouge Community College and is instead leasing space in a Baptist church in Scotlandville.

Career Academy, which was on the verge of closing a couple of months ago because it was facing homelessness, has entered into a two-year lease with Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, 9700 Scenic Highway, that lets it use the church’s Family Life Center. School starts Aug. 4, and the school is anticipating between 270 and 290 students.

Nancy Roberts, executive director of the Louisiana Resource Center for Educators and a founder of the school, said she began looking elsewhere recently after it became clear that Baton Rouge Community College would not have as much space for the high school to operate as originally anticipated.

“We need 12 to 14 classrooms, and they had more like six classrooms available,” Roberts said.

Roberts said the lease with Mount Pilgrim came together quickly, saying she heard the church had space available in late June, visited it a couple of days later and signed a lease Saturday.

The Rev. Jesse Bilberry, pastor of Mount Pilgrim, said the only tenant in the Family Life Center now is a Head Start program, but there’s still space, and Career Academy looked like a good fit.

“We have an opportunity to help them educate young men and women, and we’re not really using this space Monday to Friday,” Bilberry.

Mount Pilgrim in 2009 helped convert nearby Crestworth Middle School into a charter school for three years, but Bilberry said Mount Pilgrim will have no role in the operation of the Career Academy.

In addition to enough classrooms, Roberts said the building they’re leasing has a gym/auditorium, cafeteria and even a four-lane bowling alley. The space will be sufficient for the school’s manufacturing, culinary arts and health sciences programs. The Career Academy is planning to send students to the Associated Builders and Contractors Training Center off Highland Road, 21 miles to the southeast, to learn trades such as millwright, welding and pipefitting.

“In terms of location, it’s not ideal, but in terms of quality, it’s a very high-quality program,” Roberts said.

Roberts has spent years trying to find a permanent home for the school.

Career Academy has been holding its core classes at the former Brookstown Elementary School, 4375 E. Brookstown Drive, but offered skilled classes at Capitol High School, 1000 N. 23rd St. Both facilities, however, are being used by others: in the case of Brookstown by a new middle school, in the case of Capitol High by a new high school.

Editor’s Note: The story was changed on July 10, 2014 to change the courses handled at the Associated Builders and Contractors Training Center.