District sells St. James High School for $10.1 million

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, March 3, 2015

By Stephen Hemelt

LUTCHER — School board members in St. James Parish unanimously accepted a $10 million plus offer to sell St. James High School.

The board approved the sale Monday, which calls for Yuhuang Chemical Inc. to purchase the school at a cost of $10.1 million. Yuhuang Chemical was the only company to place a bid on the school, which sits on River Road in an industrialized area of the parish’s west bank.

The sale of the school is part of a larger plan by school leaders to move St. James High School to a new location near the football stadium along Louisiana 20 and 3127 in Vacherie.

To fund the district makeover, school leaders are pushing a May 2 bond election that would provide the money needed for a host of school district changes and upgrades.

Following Mon-day’s meeting, Superintendent Dr. Lonnie Luce said the district has contingencies in place to adjust the timeline and sale of St. James High School should voters not back the bond issue this spring.

Jerry Jones, a Baton Rouge-based attorney who represents Yuhuang Chemical, told the Board in December Yuhuang’s $1.85 billion methanol plant construction project adjacent to St. James High School was planning a groundbreaking in the third quarter of 2015.

The company is purchasing approximately 1,200 acres and will employ about 400 people when totally operational, taking about two and half years to complete.

“If we are fortunate enough to purchase (the school), it would be our intent to keep the trees,” Jones said in December.

“The (school) building would more than likely become the administrative campus for our company. The gym and auditorium would create a great opportunity for synergy for the community, where the company could work with the community to make those (available).”

Luce has maintained parish and economic officials agree St. James High School’s relocation by the football stadium on a 54.5-acre site would correspond with residential growth in that region.

School leaders said the district has invested more than $7 million in that property, including infrastructure work, parking lots and road access.

School Board members voted to reconfigure the district’s makeup last month.

Should the May 2 bond election succeed, upgrades would be made at Fifth Ward, Sixth Ward and Vacherie Elementary Schools.

Upgrades would also be made at Lutcher Elementary, Gramercy Elementary and Paulina Elementary Schools.

The school district would reconfigure grade levels with Lutcher Elementary becoming a pre-kindergarten through fifth grade facility, and Paulina and Gramercy Elementary Schools splitting the sixth graders from Lutcher Elementary.

Also planed is the merger of the Career and Technology Campus and the Science Math Academy at the present Career and Technology Campus, with the new school becoming an early college high school program with an upgraded facility.

A Performing Arts Academy and sixth grade would be added to a new St. James High School.