By Charles Lussier
Advocate staff writer
November 02, 2012
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, meeting as a committee of the whole, recommended after little discussion Thursday to rebuild Lee High School at its site at 1105 Lee Drive.
The board will vote again on the matter at its regular Nov. 15 meeting. If the plan is approved, as expected, the board will be able to move forward with hiring an architect to start drawing up plans to rebuild the high school so that it can open for students at the start of the 2015-16 school year.
Superintendent Bernard Taylor urged the board to rebuild the school where it is now at an estimated cost of $58.5 million.
Some board members had suggested at a Sept. 28 meeting possibly building the school at another location, but such a move likely would delay construction for a year. However, such a move would allow the recently reopened high school to remain at its current location while construction occurred elsewhere.
Two board members, Connie Bernard and Jill Dyason, said they would like to find ways to have more schools in the area but are satisfied that rebuilding Lee High at its present location is the best move.
“I very much wanted to pursue and see whether there were other options there were that could give us to have as many options as possible,” said Dyason, who said she was never opposed to rebuilding the school where it was.
Several prominent alumni of Lee High have pressed to have the school rebuilt in its historic location.
Rebuilding the school will involve tearing down the one-story structure and, beginning in spring 2014, rebuilding it as a two-story building that would house about 1,200 students.
Building a similar school in a new location would have meant spending $3 million to buy land and pay for expected wetlands mitigation, all of which would likely delay construction for a year, school officials have said.
Rebuilding Lee High at its current location, however, also means that in fall 2013, just a year after reopening, the small high school could have to move to another location for two years. That swing space would have to house the 226 students who go to Lee High now, as well as the hundreds more expected as the school expands in the next two years. A magnet program is planned at the school in fall 2013.
The School Board has examined several possible places to relocate, but all have shortcomings.
Board member Jerry Arbour asked on Thursday that the board visit that issue soon.
Mattie Coxe, a resident who lives in the Lee High attendance zone, said Lee High is not centrally located enough to serve as a high school for residents who live south of Interstate 10. She suggested that those residents in the future are likely to break away and form their own school district and asked the School Board rebuild Lee elsewhere so “we won’t burdened with poorly located facilities.”
The School Board also took a look at new proposed School Board member district maps are required after every U.S. Census.
The latest maps, provoked by the 2010 Census divide up almost 377,000 residents into 11 districts that average about 34,000 residents each. They also maintain the same racial balance with six districts majority white and five majority black.
The board plans to vote on the maps at its Nov. 15, though may still make changes before then.
Dan Garrett, representing Redistricting LLC, said the maps are fairly close to the districts that were in effect during the 2010 School Board elections.
“The footprint of the parish is basically the same,” Garrett said.
Garrett said once the School Board approves the new maps, which it must do by Dec. 31, his office will send them to the U.S. Justice Department for “pre-clearance,” which he said should take no more than 60 days to obtain.
The maps, once cleared by the federal agency, will go into effect for the 2014 School Board elections.