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A look into LPSB decision-making process and funding priorities for new schools

New schools being built
Posted at 11:05 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 00:05:49-04

LAFAYETTE, La. — Three schools in Lafayette Parish are getting rebuilt, and we wanted to know where the money is coming from and why the School Board chose those schools.

Carencro Heights Elementary, Prairie Elementary, and Lafayette High schools are due for a makeover in the next few years, with a price tag of $150 million.

LPSB board members say the money comes from the board putting funds away little by little to make it happen. As to why they chose these schools, Board President Mary Morrison says they simply looked at the needs for each school as it was established in a master plan in 2010.

“We had looked at growth in population and knew we had to make some changes,” she said. “With that, we have added several wings to several schools, like Evangeline, Acadian, Ridge Elementary, Woodvale, Middlebrook...several schools. And then we knew that we had schools that had to actually be rebuilt.”

She says it makes the most financial sense to rebuild these schools from scratch.

Lafayette High, for example, was built in 1952 and needs a lot of work, so she says it's best to build it again instead of adding wings. Carencro Heights was built in 1958 and Prairie in 1967.

“It would be a waste of money to invest that type of money into the school,” added Morrison. “We would be adding something new to something that would not be usable in 5 or 10 years.”

The project costs $150 million. Where is this money coming from?

Board member Justin Centanni explains that the process is similar to a family buying a home.

“We did basically the same thing,” he said. “We saved cash little by little every year until we had enough recurring revenue to sell bonds which is the same thing a public body does as a family taking out a mortgage.”

Plus, they made some adjustments to ensure they could have enough to save.

“Some small cuts to the budget mainly around transportation and some academic programs,” he added. “But really, what the fortunate thing is is that tax revenue, sales tax revenue in particular, have risen across Lafayette Parish for the last 4 years.”

Both elementary schools, Carencro Heights and Prairie, will be rebuilt on new land, which has already been purchased. Meanwhile, the board still has not decided if Lafayette High will be built on the same land it’s on, or built at a new location.

Centanni says there are challenges to both alternatives. He and Morrison say the decision to either build the high school where it was originally built or elsewhere will include a lot of public input.

The board announced the rebuild of these three schools during a special meeting.
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