St. James board envisions magnet program, academy

The St. James Parish School Board is considering creation of a new high school magnet program and a new science and math academy as a result of recommendations from a long-range master plan.

The proposed site for the parish’s new St. James High School campus in north Vacherie has been recommended to either serve as the district’s new science and math academy or house a visual and performing arts magnet program, Superintendent Alonzo Luce told the board Tuesday.

The long-range master plan, created by Vanir Construction Management Inc., also recommended evaluating Lutcher High School as a possible site for the visual and performing arts magnet program, Luce said.

Both magnet programs would serve seventh- through 12th-grade students, Luce said.

The St. James Parish Science and Math Academy in Vacherie serves the same grades and “would no longer be needed” if the new academy was created, Luce said.

The creation of a high school-level visual and performing arts magnet program was spurred by a “phenomenal” response to the district’s new visual and performing arts magnet program at Gramercy Elementary School, Luce said.

“The board is very interested in expanding because it’s been so successful at the elementary level,” Luce said.

These are recommendations the School Board could choose to act on during the next five to 10 years, said William L. Lacher, Vanir vice president and regional manager, during Tuesday’s presentation to the School Board.

The School Board hired Vanir Construction to create a long-range plan using current and future demographics and enrollment figures, population numbers and parish trends to help school officials deliver the best educational services to the district, Lacher said.

The School Board paid $133,975 for the master plan, Luce’s administrative assistant confirmed.

The long-range master plan sought to identify the most efficient utilization of School Board resources and maximize the effectiveness and results of the School Board’s educational service delivery, Lacher said.

In the master plan, Lacher also suggested the School Board determine a long-range plan for Lutcher and Fifth Ward elementary schools.

The School Board had briefly considered closing both elementary schools due to low enrollment and poor utilization of the campuses, but public outcry against the closures caused Luce to announce in March the School Board would keep both schools open indefinitely.

The long-range master plan also called for developing annual capital outlay plans to fund repairs at existing facilities and confirming the target enrollment for the new St. James High School to help guide its design, Lacher said.