Fight over St. Scholastica expansion plan grows with appeal from opponents

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 6:55 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 17 at 7:00 PM

Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

COVINGTON, La. -- More than 600 female students sprawl across the St. Scholastica Academy campus in Covington every school day. But school leaders say they're out of room.

“There's space that is needed outside of the classroom to do things like project-based learning, engineering classes, student council," Principal Mary Katherine Villere said. "Any after-school activities need extended spaces, and we don't have that."

The solution is to build a new multi-purpose facility along the corner of Jahncke Avenue and 20th Street before rebuilding the gym.

The current plan puts the expansion on 54,000 sq. ft. of space, at a cost of around $10 million. It got a thumbs up from the city's Historic District Commission last week, but Thursday, opponents filed an appeal of that decision, sending the debate in front of the Covington City Council. 

"The scale is much too large for the placement and we're very concerned because by nature of the scale, they'll have to tear down two live oak trees and affect several others. Very concerned about both issues," said Patrick Moore.

Opponents say the plan is like Disney World on Jahncke Avenue, and a better plan can be developed. But the school says it's compromised enough.

"We've compromised with three different designs,” said Villere. “With the first design, with the second design being half of that and the third design completely changing everything we were going to do, costing us more money in the process."

Divide over the issue is visibly growing in the community and many are torn.

“I think most of the members of our group love St. Scholastica, we just cannot tolerate the plan," Moore said. "So, we're in a difficult situation, frankly."

But both sides seem ready for the next round. The appeal is scheduled to be heard by the Covington City Council next month.

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