Superintendent Wes Watts and Principal Judith Brock were joined by almost two dozen others involved with the new construction at Lukeville Upper Elementary School last week for a ribbon cutting, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg that is the whole story.
The project, which added over 7,000 square feet with its new entrance building, is a step in a much larger construction project in which the West Baton Rouge Parish School Board is currently involved.
A long and winding road led to the completion of the Lukeville portion of what became a $90 million construction project involving nearly every school building in the parish.
“In 2014, a board retreat ended with a long-range plan for the direction School Board members wanted to go, things we wanted to do,” Watts said. “So we began working on a five-year strategic plan.”
The plan included five categories and a committee was formed for each one—academics, personnel, buildings, transportation and budget. School Board members at the time named it the 2020 Vision, Watts explained, because it described “where we’re going to be in 2020.”
The Lukeville School project was just one of many that fell under the building category, based in part because of the expansion of La. 1 and its service road long after the school was built.
A $3 million project paid for with $90 million in debt service bonds approved and sold in December 2016 for all of the building needs, the new, modern entrance at Lukeville provides a level of security long needed at the school.
“The major issue was safety at Lukeville,” Watts said.
“The way the school was designed a long time ago and then with the La. 1 and service road construction, you actually entered the school on the side and you passed six classrooms before you got to an administrative office,” he explained.
“That’s just not safe,” Watts continued. “…Now you can’t get to a student before you go through the office.”
The Vision 2020 plan included the new entranceway and eliminated temporary buildings at the school, a commitment also included in the plan, Watts said.
Stepping into the new Lukeville building is like taking a step into the future with its modern, open look, high ceilings and not just up-to-date technology, but technology designed to last long into the future.
“New technology has changed libraries, what they look like and what they’re used for,” Watts said. “Now they’re called ‘media centers.’”
The media center at Lukeville is wired with “the best of the best” high tech wiring capable of not only handling the school system’s most modern communications systems, but “the goal is for all these buildings (throughout all the parish’s public schools) and all these improvements to last for the next 30 to 50 years,” Watts said.
The new building also houses a computer lab and space for newer programs like robotics and STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, initiatives, something Watts said was helpful in designing and funding.
“Dow has really helped a lot,” he said. “they’ve been great to us and so has Placid Refining.”
Other changes accompanying the new entrance building at the school between Brusly and Addis included converting the old library into two classrooms and while the new building occupies a massive amount of the property, more parking was created.
“We incorporated some unused space to make better use of it because the school had outgrown that design,” Watts said.