Amanda Simmons
amanda@bossierpress.com

In a matter of months, Bossier Schools is poised to break ground on its largest project to date in the 2012 construction bond program; building a new Benton High School.

After hearing Bledsoe Architects’ final design plans for the new campus, the Bossier Parish School Board gave its nod of approval to proceed with the advertising of bids. Bids will be opened July 27, 2017.

The estimated $45.5 million construction project, located at 449 Fairburn Avenue and Tiger Pride Drive in Benton, will be built on 70 acres with a projected opening date of fall 2019-20.

Benton continues to see an increase in rural developments, but parish officials have said commercial development will take off when Willis-Knighton Health System develops the vacant Palmetto Country Club property. Scott Hughes, Northwest Louisiana Association of Realtors Executive, said there are two factors that play into where people purchase homes — the school system and public safety.

“Bossier has a history of providing good public safety and good public schools. I think that combination is working well for Bossier. You can see the growth and the numbers support it for the north, east and south of the parish. “As long as Bossier provides quality schools and public safety, then you’ll continue to see Bossier grow and see those property values increase.”

Although there’s no quantitative research to show how a new school effects property values and the housing market, Hughes said the new school is going to help Benton see continued growth.

“People do move to areas to attend new schools, but we don’t have any data that can tell us what it specifically does to the market,” he said.

There’s a difference, though, between building a brand new school in a new area versus replacing a school with a new one.

“Clearly people want to move there. People have already been building there [in Benton] for 10 years,” Hughes said. “Replacing a high quality school won’t have near the impact as building a new school in a new area that would drive new housing developments.”

The new Benton High School will include 69 classrooms, two gymnasiums and initially accommodate as many as 1,450 students. It will have the ability to increase its footprint to serve a student enrollment of 1,650 when deemed necessary.

The project is being made possible as the result of a $212 million construction bond program, approved in April 2012 by Bossier Parish voters to alleviate overcrowding throughout the school district due to unprecedented growth.