Schools say $40 million building program not due to student increase

Although there has been some fluctuation throughout the years, St. Charles Parish Public Schools have about the same number of students this year as they did 10 years ago.

But despite a fairly constant number of students, the district has been updating and adding new facilities to local schools and announced last month that it will seek $30 million in bonds to be used for future projects.

Rachel Allemand, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said that the projects the school focuses on are important to make classrooms more modern and to update and add new programs to help children learn.

“Although overall enrollment is stable, programs and courses have been added to respond to the interests and needs of the student population,” Allemand said.

She said that facility needs have changed due to an increase in the number of students with severe disabilities, an increase in specialized and state-mandated programs like talented art and connections, and an increase in technology, such as the addition of computer labs. A growing number of intervention programs, such as tutoring during the school day, and advanced career or technical education programs, like at the Satellite Center, have also contributed to the need for many projects.

Allemand said that another main objective of many of the capital improvement projects is to eliminate the use of portables in the parish.

“Portables have been used for many years to accommodate increases in enrollment, special programs and a more diverse curriculum,” she said. “Many of these portables have exceeded their life expectancy and do not offer the quality learning environments available in the district’s permanent buildings.”

John Rome, executive director of physical plant services for the district, said that the schools currently spend about $286,000 each year on rent and upkeep of portables. He said that future projects planned for the district would leave only three portables in use.

Included in the list of future projects for the district are five new wings. Of those wings, one will be built with an arts sector at Destrehan High, one with a ticket booth at Hahnville High, one with a locker room at Cammon Middle, one with 13 classrooms and a library at Norco K-3 and one with six classrooms and a library at Luling Elementary. The list also includes field house expansions and renovations at both local high schools, renovations on buildings A-D at Norco 4-6, modification/incorporation of the A. A. Songy facility at Lakewood Elementary and a kindergarten addition at Mimosa Park Elementary.

The total for all future projects is projected at about $40.1 million.

Superintendent Rodney Lafon said that these projects would eliminate most portables and “take schools to a level that is appropriate for the 21st century.”

Regardless of the steady student population, district officials said that adding these new facilities to local schools will be important for the future of teaching and learning in St. Charles.

On average, the student population fluctuates by about 140 students each year. In the last decade, the largest jump in student population was the year that Hurricane Katrina hit. From 2004-05 to 2005-06, the number of students rose by more than 470, indicating an upward trend in population. But the following year after the hurricane, the number of students declined by more than 330.

 

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