St. Charles schools need to expand to keep up with growth

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 22, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / January 22, 2000

LULING – St. Charles Public Schools need to expand its facilities,especially in the lower grades, to keep up with anticipated population growth. However, the price tag will be high.Kevin Belanger, chief executive officer of South Central Planning and Development Commission, reported the results of a study of the school system’s physical facilities at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

“This is a snapshot today of what your needs are going to be in the next 10 years,” Belanger said by way of introduction to the study’s conclusions.

South Central Planning’s determinations did not point to any new high schools in the next 10 years but did urge additions on both sides of the river at most other schools as population is expected to jump 8 percent in the next five years and 18.3 percent in the next 10 years.The findings showed that needed improvements in the coming 10 years will cost more than $14 million, while keeping the current portable buildings. Without the portables, the price tag would jump to $20.4million, Belanger said.

Norco Elementary requires the most work to maintain a comfortable minimum square footage of space per student, the gauge by which South Central Planning rated the schools. Currently, Norco Elementary has 108square feet per student, while the regional average is 121 square feet.

However, as population increases, more students are expected and the average square footage per student is expected to drop to 96 in five years and 94 in 10 years, well below the average.

Cost to bring Norco Elementary up to par would be $2.2 million withportables.

Other east bank schools seen as unable to keep up with anticipated growth in the next five years include New Sarpy Elementary, St. Rose Primary andCammon Middle School. Schoeffner Elementary is expected to needexpansions in 10 years.

On the west bank, Mimosa Park Elementary and Carver Elementary are most in need of expansion to keep up with growth. With portables, MimosaPark would need $1.9 million of expansion and Carver would need $1.5million of expansion.

In five years, other west bank schools which will fall below par at the present growth rate include Lakewood Elementary and J.B. Martin Middleschools. In 10 years, R.J. Vial and Luling elementary schools will join thatlist.

On the other hand, both Destrehan and Hahnville high schools are more than adequate to keep up with anticipated growth over the next 10 years.

Belanger said the study considered a number of growth factors, including declining household size, anticipated new subdivision development and trends in housing sales and residential building permits.

Among subdivisions which could come on line by the end of this year include 87-lot Fashion Plantation Phase Two in Hahnville, 123-lot Black Prince Bayou in Bayou Gauche, 54-lot Shamrock Park in Bayou Gauche, 81- lot Highland Estates in Norco, 73-lot Primrose Estates in Boutte, 62-lot Oak Manor Farm in St. Rose, 113-lot Riverwood in St. Rose, 69-lot Oaklawnin St. Rose and 103-lot Riverbend in St. Rose. The first phase of Ashton Plantation in Luling, 210 lots, could also begin work by the end of this year, Belanger said, after checking with the parish government’s Department of Planning and Zoning. That development isplanned to include 2,000 lots in the next 10 years.

Still more subdivisions are already under construction, including 77-lot Fashion Plantation in Hahnville, 44-lot Primrose Park in Boutte, 18-lot Pecan Bayou in Hahnville.

In conclusion, Belanger urged the board to work with the new Parish Council in toughening up subdivision ordinances, with the aim of requiring developers to consider schools more as a necessary public utility.

The board should also do an annual review of its building plans, keep up with local economic changes and review the results of the 2000 census, due to be released in spring 2001.

Board member John L. Smith of St. Rose asked about the possible impact ofa buyout of subdivisions in his district to accommodate airport expansion.

Belanger responded it would most likely push those residents to neighboring areas.

In addition, Belanger said of unanticipated events, “If something like the Kaiser explosion occurred here, it would skew these projections.”

Return To News Stories