Ballot proposal seeks to rebuild 7 schools

LAFAYETTE — The newest schools in Lafayette Parish were built in 1999 and 2002.

But the majority are overdue for major renovations and in some cases the repairs and needs are so exorbitant that planning consultants have recommended at least seven schools be rebuilt.

The district’s master plan lays out needs and a capital improvement plan to get started.

On Oct. 22, voters will decide whether to support a 20-year, 23-mill property tax to fund $561 million in repairs and construction as well as a 2-mill property tax dedicated to maintenance.

A coalition pushing for action to repair and maintain schools says that electrical capacity issues are commonplace. Classrooms and hallways are dimly lit. Some hallways are “decorated” with exposed plumbing lines overhead. Temperamental cooling and heating systems require continual tinkering and impending replacement. When air conditioners are operable, the noise of the classroom units competes with the teacher’s voice.

On the morning of Sept. 28, the air conditioner wasn’t working at Northside High and some teachers moved their classrooms outdoors, a coalition member said.

“That’s called lost instructional time,” said Sarah Walker, chairwoman of the Community Coalition for Lafayette Schools as one class filed outside.

Northside High and Lafayette High are among the seven schools that would be rebuilt as part of the initial phase of the master plan implementation.

Lafayette High is the district’s largest high school with about 2,500 students. It also houses two schools of choice programs in health and performing arts that enroll students from across the district.

Both schools of choice programs are popular and enroll students from across the district. The health academy is housed in portable buildings while the school’s arts programs clamor for the one spot large enough for them to practice — the auditorium.

“We get along but our biggest arguments are about space,” Holly Grefe, Lafayette High choir director, said about her fellow music and performing arts teachers.

Space in the choral room is so tight that a wheelchair-bound student is transferred to a specially designed office chair on wheels to navigate the room.

Schools in the parish are also outgrowing their walls.

At Green T. Lindon Elementary in Youngsville, the number of portable classrooms — 25 — outnumber the 18 located inside the building.

About 760 students attend the school, and there are too few bathroom stalls for the young students, said Gina Cahee, Lindon’s principal.

The school was designed for about 400 students.

Teachers coordinate classroom visits to the bathroom to prevent long waits and lessen the amount of lost instructional time while waiting for a stall.

The school also has no gym and its physical education teachers no office. Class is held on the playground or in a side parking lot.

The teachers’ desks are outdoors, too.

When it rains gym class is held in a hallway near the second-grade classrooms.

Like other schools in the district, electrical capacity issues delay and often limit the use of technology.

“I don’t think in this day and age that children should have to come to school in an environment like this,” Cahee said.