The first models of the new Lycée Lafayette were unveiled to the community at a town hall on Tuesday in the school’s auditorium, sparking interest and concern from parents of student athletes frustrated by the projected loss of two fields. sport.
The designs laid out the planned footprint of the campus, including the location of the academic building and how the Congress Street campus parking and athletics lots would change. The school board opted to rebuild on the existing campus after overwhelming support in a public poll.
School board member Justin Centanni said the new three-story school building would be over 273,000 square feet and built to accommodate 2,300 students; the school currently serves 1,900 students, principal Rachel Brown said.
Parking would increase to 800 available spaces under the proposed plan, Centanni said.
The District 6 representative said the planning process was informed by student and staff surveys and feedback from the LHS Steering Committee, with voices like former principal Patrick Leonard and group director Scotty Walker, and the LHS Program and Instruction Committee.
Centanni, whose district includes Lafayette High, said navigating rising construction costs while making the most of the school’s $100 million budget was a major planning constraint. The budgeted funds cover construction of the school, parking and renovation of the school gymnasium, he said.
Eric Crozier, principal architect for ACSW Architects, said the architectural team tries to balance the needs of specific student groups and the desire of stakeholders for dedicated student spaces with flexibly planned spaces that allow more dynamic use.
“With rising costs and everything we’re facing, it’s very difficult to build a specific space… We try to get our money’s worth on everything we can and not design something so specific that we can’t use it for at least one other thing,” he said.
Crozier said he hopes to have another public meeting with detailed design proposals for the exterior and interior of the new building in the next two to three months.
In the plans unveiled, the main school building will be pushed back to the middle of the school property, built behind the current school buildings so that students are not displaced from campus during construction.
“One of our values has always been presence – the importance of it being a neighborhood school and the physical presence of the factory on Congress Street… We are always trying to figure out where the presence is still strong and the value of that community is still very evident when you pull up, drive, and are on campus,” Brown said.
Centanni said the goal is to begin initial construction work, such as establishing the construction area and assessing the existing drainage infrastructure, in the summer of 2022, with major construction to follow at summer 2023.
The goal is to complete the building by spring 2025, on a construction schedule of about 18 months, he said.
About 100 parents, teachers and community members raised their hands in the air to question the plan at city hall on Tuesday: how well the new school will serve students with special needs and those who require mobility aids? How will traffic be impacted? How safe will the new building be? How intrusive will construction noise be for teachers and students?, they asked.
A major change proposed was the loss of the existing baseball and softball fields, first for construction support needs, then for additional student parking and a multi-purpose driving range, a facet met with frustration and pushback. parents and students involved in the sport. .
Crozier said the fields were targeted for use because of their proximity to the construction area and the planned entry points for crews and equipment, where a drop yard is needed to store tools, equipment and materials on site.
Centanni added that planners need to consider replacement cost; when parents called the football pitch still pictured, the board member noted the expected higher cost of replacing the football pitch, track and supporting infrastructure if removed.
Brian Biddick’s son, Dylan, a junior, signed up to play college baseball for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Biddick said he was worried about the stress students would be under with their facilities gone and plans for next year’s season on hold. He also lamented the loss of facilities that parents have spent years raising money to improve and support.
“Does it matter? It will do me good when I fall asleep at night, and when I talk to my son about it, to hear you say it’s important,” Biddick told district officials.
Elizabeth Grossie’s daughter is a senior on the LHS softball team who received college scholarship offers because of the sport, she said. Grossie expressed concern that moving the sport off campus will reduce future opportunities for female students.
“She will be able to go wherever she wants for college. It’s not because of the academics, it’s because of the athletics. Athletics is just as important as academics, all day, every day…I’m tired of women losing opportunities, especially on a school campus,” Grossie said.
LHS baseball coach Sam Taulli, who worked with the steering committee, and softball coach Chris Ortego raised their own concerns.
Ortego said there is a real danger that moving practice, conditioning and home games to offsite locations will reduce opportunities for players who already have transportation challenges and push those students, most of whom are in the academy program, to remain in their area schools because of the excessive burden that will be placed on parents and students if transport support is not put in place for players.
Taulli raised concerns about next season’s lineup, a routine that will begin a few months after this season ends.
Centanni warned that many details still need to be ironed out and answers won’t be available overnight. Determining the school’s building plan was the first step, he said.
“We are not as advanced in the athletic process as we would like, but we had to figure out how to build a 280,000 square foot school. There are just real limitations to the site, when we’re trying to put such a big school there while still maintaining the capacity to have the kids coming to school every day,” he said.
Centanni and District 8 board member Hannah Smith Mason, a graduate of Lafayette High School, said a next step in the planning process is to convene a steering committee around athletic issues on campus. They will discuss the implications of the new campus footprint and the alternative plans that will need to be developed for baseball and softball, if those fields are lost as planned.
“I am committed to trying to find a solution that works for everyone. It won’t be perfect, as you can see, but we’re going to find a way out of this because it’s important,” Centanni said.
“I’ve played here and I’ve played in college and I know athleticism is important. It’s a priority for me and I’m going to make sure we have a place to play,” Mason said. .
Space in the new 273,000+ square foot school building would be allocated according to the following priorities:
- 30% of the space for university quarters
- 19% for performing arts and fine arts
- 15% for PE and athletics
- 11% for career and technology
- 7% for catering
- 6% for administrative space
- 4% for a media library
- 4% for special education
- 4% for support needs