Initially slated for a fall 2020 opening, the doors to Boutte’s River Parishes Community College – United Way campus are now slated to open in January 2021.
“The pandemic occurred right as we were gathering bids, so as a courtesy to our contractors we extended the bid deadlines,” United Way of St. Charles Executive Director John Dias said, explaining the pandemic affected the contractors’ ability to communicate with their subcontractors and assess costs for materials. “The end result was that we got in very competitive bids, and Lamar was chosen to do the job.”
Dias said the community will start to see work happen at the site by the end of June. The United Way bought the 3.9-acre site at 13143 Highway 90 for the community college’s future location.
The campus is a result of a partnership with River Parishes Community College in Reserve, which agreed to manage the St. Charles Parish campus if the United Way found a building. The college will be a part of the Louisiana Technical College System and open to all students.
The project will cost an estimated $3.3 million, including $1.4 million to renovate the 16,389 square-foot bingo hall and the addition of 439 square feet. The renovation will provide a facelift for the center section of the building.
“We hope to start in a couple weeks,” Dias said. “The building should be finished this calendar year, but won’t be finished in time to start school in the fall.”
Even with the physical campus not open, Dias said prospective students are able to register for online classes. More information can be found at www.rpcc.edu/admissions/st-charles-campus.
“Last I heard we have 100 students,” he said. “We will have students before we have a physical campus.”
Dias said even in the midst of the pandemic, United Way was able to provide new programs to the community – including grocery and pharmacy services and online tutoring – and the organization intends to stay sensitive to the community’s needs.
“The bottom line is we feel like this is our chance to change generations through education,” he said. “We will never be able to measure the amount of people whose lives will change because of this, but we know it will make a difference.”
Dias said the campus’ goal is to serve a wide range of students – including people right out of high school wanting to learn a trade, students wishing to start at a smaller institution before transferring to a large university and people working in a minimum wage job looking for an advancement opportunity.
The school’s academic and program offerings will grow each year as school becomes established.
“This campus represents the United Way stepping up and showing the community a bold action, because the community has supported us in such a bold manner with their donations,” Dias said.