Schools construction still on track

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It’s been almost two years since the public approved a $210 million bond referendum to build new schools and improve existing ones in Bossier Parish over a 10 year period.

In that time, the Bossier School System has worked tirelessly to finalize project designs in order to turn dirt and get projects rolling. Now entering the second year of Phase One, school officials say things are going better than they anticipated.

“We are in the process of building our largest schools ever,” Keith Norwood, Director of Planning and Construction for Bossier Schools, said.

A prime example is the Bossier Parish School for Technology and Innovative Learning (BPSTIL), a school that will be unlike anything Bossier Parish residents have ever seen. Thursday afternoon’s groundbreaking ceremony shed light on just how big of a project this one will truly be.

Its exterior and interior design will be as innovative as the curriculum. The two-wing design, linked by a court yard, will include an extensive culinary arts department, banquet facilities, a student-run bistro and outdoor dining. The 110,000 square feet facility will be centrally located just off I-220 and Swan Lake Road, giving all students throughout the parish easy access to the facility.

Norwood said that construction plans are currently on schedule for the school.

“It’s a shorter schedule and a little more aggressive than Kingston [Elementary], but it is still scheduled to open in June of 2015,” he said.

The first of many parish-wide construction projects is already nearing completion. Norwood said the wing addition at W.T. Lewis Elementary School will be finished within the next two weeks and will be ready for teachers to move into before the school year ends.

Other major construction projects include the 1,000 student Kingston Elementary School, which broke ground last November, Bossier Parish School for Technology and Innovative Learning (BPSTIL) and a new Haughton Middle School.

Kingston Elementary School, located on property between Bossier City and Benton, is designed to alleviate growing pains at Legacy Elementary and Benton Elementary. The project design, which has been described as “modern, safe and secure,” includes more than 80,000 square feet of space with 50 total classrooms, 300 parking spaces and a combination cafeteria and gymnasium that will accommodate large crowds for school events.

“They are pouring the foundation and we have received photo after photo of that work,” Norwood said. “Everything has been going fine though. We’ve had good weather days and bad weather days, but they are making good progress.”

The next school to see renovations, quite possibly by the summer, is Airline High School. Norwood said the original plan was to complete all projects in one phase. However, that plan was deemed “extremely difficult” and too disruptive to the school.

Now, projects will be completed in a multi-phase approach.

These projects were also to be funded with the second sale of bond money at a later date, but a vote by the Bossier School Board voted to sell it early pushed the start date up.

“We hope to have the first major project, the classroom wing, started this fall,” Norwood explained. “In the meantime, we wanted to do some other things in the school and they’ve put together some summer project in a few of the commons areas.”

Renovation projects for Airline High School include refurbishing restrooms, the auditorium and the cafeteria while also constructing a new outdoor dining commons area. The last phase is anticipated to be renovations to the Administration, Media, Lobby and Art wing (C wing).

Then there’s Haughton Middle School, which will be the first three-story middle school in the parish. Designed for 1,500 students in sixth through eighth grades, Haughton Middle School will be nestled on more than 30 acres of land along Highway 3227, to the west of the Tuscany subdivision.

The Bossier School System has also purchased three additional properties in the parish for future, yet undetermined projects. The first is a 17 acre property at Turtle Creek in Benton for a future elementary school, but no official plan has been set for that site.

There is also a 22 acre property on Caplis Sligo Road in South Bossier, adjacent to the new park that the parish is opening, to be used for a future elementary school, but pending a demographic study. Finally, the school system purchased 34 acres of land on Benton Road as a back-up for the Kingston Elementary site that will now be used for a different school site.

For project updates, visit the Bossier School’s designated construction and renovations website at www.bossierschools2012.com.