LAFAYETTE — Some Lafayette Parish School Board members say they want the district to consider options other than charter schools to address population growth in the southern part of the parish.
Two charter school organizations applied to open charter schools in the district. The applications include commitments to build new schools, including a K-8 grade school and high school in the Youngsville area, where schools are overcrowded.
Board member Mark Allen Babineaux urged the board Wednesday to consider building its own schools. For example, he said, the board should look at the feasibility of building an education complex with three schools on board-owned property in Youngsville.
The concept was pitched a few years ago by University of Louisiana at Lafayette architecture students, who envisioned a complex on the site that would include an elementary, middle and high school, Babineaux noted.
School building plans used to construct the district’s newer schools, such as Live Oak Elementary and Ernest Gallet are also owned by the board and could be duplicated, he said.
“The idea is that we have the property. We own the plans. We wouldn’t have to start from scratch,” Babineaux said.
The board will explore options in a future workshop — but not before it meets Wednesday for a workshop specific to charter schools. The board delayed a vote on the charter school applications at its Aug. 18 meeting. Members said they wanted more time to review the applications and other options, such as converting its low-performing schools into charter schools or partnering with a university to create a lab school.
The board voted in Wednesday to set aside about $4.4 million of an $8.8 million surplus in its general fund from the past fiscal year to cover debt service on new school construction.
Board member Rae Trahan said the district could build at least two new schools in Youngsville if it committed excess sales tax revenues to construction projects.
“We need schools and that’s how we can build them — just like that,” Trahan said.
Babineaux and Trahan said they don’t support charter schools as a way to address student population growth.
“That’s not the reason to bring in a charter school — it’s not,” Trahan said. “Not in one of the highest-performing sections of the district — for sure, it’s not.”
Youngsville Mayor Wilson Viator said he supports any effort to build new schools in the district, especially in his city. But he said he hopes that the board’s recent pitch to build new schools isn’t an attempt to defeat the applications filed by the charter school organizations.
The city councils in both Youngsville and Broussard recently approved resolutions of support for the charter schools.
“We definitely need new schools,” Viator said. “I don’t know why it took the charter school issue to force their hand. I hope they’re not using it a ploy to kill the charter school (applications).”
A vote on the charter school applications could come as soon as the board’s Sept. 18 meeting, however, the board has until mid-October to make a decision.