Ascension boosting classroom capacity with 119 T-buildings

Ascension Parish school officials are trying to figure out how to solve their school capacity issues.

Heading into the 2013-14 school year, which starts on Aug. 7, the parish will utilize 119 temporary buildings on the district’s 29 campuses. Each of the temporary units, known as T-buildings, houses two classrooms.

Fourteen of the campuses, including eight elementary schools, have at least five T-buildings. Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant high schools are each using at least nine of the buildings, but the overcrowding on those campuses will be addressed with the construction of on-campus freshmen academies.

Dutchtown Primary, which Superintendent Patrice Pujol called the “worst” T-building situation in the parish, is home to nine of the structures, while Prairieville Middle copes with eight. Those issues likely will be addressed with new construction.

“Most of the possible solutions include building new schools,” Scott Duplechein, a demographics analyst for the school district, said during an Ascension Parish School Board strategic planning meeting Tuesday night.

The district has proposed building three new elementary schools and one new middle school. Pujol also has said the construction of the freshmen academies likely could delay construction on a new high school, but school officials know that day will arrive soon.

In the meantime, they will continue stretching current campuses where they can while they continue to formulate a more concrete plan.

“This helps us understand what the plan is and what the vision is moving forward,” board member Jamie Bourgeois said while looking at an inventory of T-buildings in the district.

“You’re never going to completely eliminate T-buildings because you’re going to use them as part of your growth plan,” Pujol said, “but you don’t want them to become permanent.”

Ascension Parish is in the midst of a $100 million major construction phase that voters approved in 2009. The freshmen academies, which likely will cost about $12 million each, are part of that bond project. However, because of continued growth, Pujol said, district officials are planning when they will seek approval of another tax for major construction.

“We know we’re going to, at some point, go to the public with new construction and big priorities,” she said.