Site to be retooled to meet needs

The school district is planning renovations at the W.D. and Mary Baker Smith Career Center to meet the needs of students who want to receive workforce training and college credit while in high school, said Burnell LeJeune, the district’s career and vocational education director.

The renovations are planned as the campus again becomes the location of the district’s career and technical programs after the School Board changed the mission of its two-year-old David Thibodaux Career and Technical High School this summer. Thibodaux changed its focus and expanded the magnet academy for science, technology, engineering and math disciplines offered to middle school students on its campus.

Thibodaux Career and Technical was created in 2010 as a comprehensive high school for students interested in technical programs and to give students the opportunity to earn industry-based certification and college credit in tandem with their high school diploma. Previously, technical programs were offered on a half- or part-time basis at the Career Center with interested students sharing time between their zoned high school and the Career Center.

Now, those same certification and college credit options will be afforded students at the Career Center and at the restructured Thibodaux, LeJeune said.

Those programs initially planned at the Thibodaux Career and Technical High School that align with the school’s new STEM focus, such as biomedical studies and engineering, will remain on the Thibodaux campus, while programs such as welding, construction and cosmetology will be offered only at the Career Center campus. Some of the equipment and facilities for those programs already exist at the Career Center site and reviews of updated equipment and facility needs will be part of three-year plans developed by Career Center staff, LeJeune said.

Initially, extensive renovations for Thibodaux, housed at the former N.P. Moss Middle site, were planned to create specialized labs, workshops, a new gymnasium and to expand the campus.

“A lot of the plans to upgrade at Thibodaux will now go on at the Career Center,” LeJeune said.

“We’ll be upgrading the facility, upgrading equipment and getting all teachers industry-based certified and dual enrollment credentialed.”

The renovations will start with the campus kitchen, upgrading it to house the district’s culinary arts training program, LeJeune said.

About $2 million is available to get the kitchen renovations started, he said.

Funding for the renovation of the entire Career Center campus hasn’t been decided, LeJeune said.

About $8 million in renovations and an expansion of the Thibodaux campus are also planned for the specialized STEM programs.

Recently, the School Board approved the Thibodaux campus renovations and expansion as part of a $30 million bond package of improvements.