Apr 12, 2022
See plans for latest LPSS elementary project: 'Time for our Prairie family to grow somewhere new'
By Katie Gagliano | PUBLISHED APR 8, 2022 AT 8:38 AM | UPDATED APR 8, 2022 AT 8:04 PM
“[The school’s team has] done so much with so little for so long and we don’t tell them thank you enough. Can you imagine, with what you’re going to see tonight, what they’ll be able to do?” school board member Britt Latiolais said to the crowd.
The new Prairie Elementary will be on a 22-acre property in the 1100 block of Rue de Belier and will be built to serve 900 students.
David Hebert with Grace Hebert Curtis Architects, who worked with appointed architects Poche Prouet Associates on the project, said construction is slated to begin in June, with completion set for July 2023. Initial dirt work has been moved up and is slated to begin next week, he said.
JB Mouton is handling the school’s construction.
The campus will be divided into two main sections: core learning space and shared space.
A mall will run the length of the campus and split the two sections. It will function as more than a corridor, featuring pull out spaces where teachers or interventionists can meet with students one-on-one or in small groups. The goal is for the mall to create a sense of engagement, family and connection, he said.
The grades will be grouped into learning communities on the campus’s north side.
The communities will be housed in four wings and two of the wings will be two stories. The first wing will house kindergarten and pre-K students, and each subsequent grade will have a dedicated wing. The classrooms for fourth and fifth graders will be above the second and third grade classrooms, he said.
The two-story wings will be deeper into the property, to keep the scale of the building approachable for younger children when entering the school, Hebert said.
There will be six classrooms per grade level for first through fifth grade, seven classrooms for kindergarten and three classrooms for pre-K students. Each wing will also have its own bathrooms. Dedicated special education rooms will be built into the learning wings to allow as much inclusion as possible.
Each grade level will have a dedicated color woven throughout its wing to help with wayfinding, while French-English signage will be used throughout campus as a nod to the school’s French immersion program, Hebert said.
The school’s two outdoor play areas will be located just outside the classroom wings. A smaller, size appropriate playground will be adjacent to the pre-K and kindergarten wing, with a separate zone for the older children, where builders hope to use extra dirt to create manmade hills to give the land a sense of movement, the architect said.
On the south side of the campus will be the school’s public spaces: the media center where the library will be housed, a multipurpose room, the cafeteria, administrative space, a band room and chorus space. The multipurpose room and cafeteria will be divided by a wall that can be opened to support larger events, Hebert said.
Having the mall act as a buffer between the school’s public and learning space will help keep the main kid areas more secure during public events and offer a sound buffer during the day, so functions or activities happening in the band room or multipurpose room won’t disturb classroom learning, the architect said.
The school’s carline and main parking area will be situated along the length of the building’s south side. Four queue lanes will hopefully keep cars off Rue de Belier. Buses will have a separate entrance and exit alongside the pre-K and kindergarten wing, Hebert said.
Prairie librarian Jennifer Cohen and others were oohing and ahhing watching the presentation.
Cohen, who’s been at the school for six years, said her current library is in a portion of the original building, far away from the butler buildings housing third- through fifth-grade students who are more avid readers. The distance requires more time out of the classroom for them to cross campus to select reading material, she said.
The library’s tight space makes it difficult to host multiple groups of students at the same time and when it rains heavily, the library tends to take on water, Cohen said.
The new space’s open design, larger footprint and pull out spaces, like a learning stair where teachers can sit and read to a group of students, mean that Cohen can host a library class while another teacher can meet with a small group and students can check out books, she said.
“It’s almost like we’ve worn out the old Prairie. We’ve had so much fun, we’ve enjoyed it for so many years but now it’s worn out and it’s time for our Prairie family to grow somewhere new,” Cohen said.
The current Prairie requires staff to constantly fight the building, Principal Cayce Booher said.
The aging campus struggles to support the volume of technology needed for modern learning and the school’s team fights with controlling the climate, having to blow fans in the school’s breezeways to keep walkways dry enough to avoid students slipping. Those are just a couple of their constant battles with the school’s infrastructure, she said.
Booher formed a core team representing all facets of the school to inform the design process. They made a “pie in the sky” dream list for the new campus, then pitched their ideas to the whole faculty to get more feedback. Having the whole school involved in the process has really helped build consensus and a sense of satisfaction around the design plans, she said.
As for their “pie in the sky” ideas, most weren’t as far fetched as they thought and made it into the plans for the school, the principal said.
“I can’t wait to see what our kids can do in that building. I can’t wait to see what the teachers can do. Our teachers already do a lot of great work in the building that they have so I can only imagine them stepping it up even more,” Booher said after the presentation.
EMAIL KATIE GAGLIANO AT KGAGLIANO@THEADVOCATE.COM