WALKER – Construction of five buildings at Walker High will change the look of the campus, but following the buildings will be new programs for students, according to its principal.
Like a restaurant and an auto repair/paint shop.
For Jason St. Pierre, entering his 10th year as Walker High principal, it’s part of a continuing effort to offer opportunities to students to plan their future, whether it’s college or the workplace.
Three of the buildings are scheduled to be completed by December – the industrial arts building, cafeteria and band building, St. Pierre said during a tour of the construction site near Florida Boulevard.
Two other buildings – a 31-classroom/administrative building and a gym that can seat 2,000 -- are due to be completed in August 2018, he said.
Then comes the dining and auto work.
“Next year, we will begin a collision repair and paint shop, sponsored by Gerry Lane Chevrolet,” St. Pierre said.
“Once the new cafeteria building is completed, the old cafeteria will be renovated,” he said, part of the $25 million capital improvement plan.
Then Walker High will enter into an agreement with Papa John’s for a first-of-its-kind sit-down buffet restaurant, St. Pierre said.
Students in the Pro Start program will run the restaurant to get the 400 hours of restaurant experience needed for their culinary certificate.
The restaurant will be open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. weeknights, Saturdays and after church on Sunday, St. Pierre said.
Both programs will join a list of other programs that offer Walker High’s 1,220 students hands-on experience in career fields they may choose to pursue.
For now, St. Pierre walks through the various buildings, noting where electrical work, sheetrock installation or painting is going on, without much cooperation from the weather.
“At this point, June was brutal,” he said of the almost daily rain that occurred. “We got roofs on all three buildings, so they can work inside under cover.”
Contractor M.D. Descant Construction, of Bunkie, “has done a great job battling the weather,” he said.
“They did a lot in the month of June considering the rainfall. They are working diligently to make progress,” St. Pierre said.
Three programs will be housed in the new industrial arts building – welding, carpentry and agricultural science, the principal said. Each area has a large open area, a classroom and an office for its instructor.
The welding area holds 20 welding booths, double the 10 now on campus, with concrete side walls. The auto repair program will share its space.
One entrance into the building will allow an 18-wheeler to pull into the building to unload supplies or pick up whatever is put together, St. Pierre said.
The carpentry area will have more equipment and enough space for students to build a portable building inside it, he said.
The agriculture area already has a concrete slab outside its door for the new greenhouse.
Next to the industrial arts building is the new cafeteria, capable of seating 700 students, an improvement over the 250 to 300 students who can be seated in the current cafeteria.
The band building – already boasting its red brick -- will have space for the 200-member band to be in one room, St. Pierre said.
“It will have great acoustics,” he said.
Down one hall will be smaller practice rooms and storage space for instruments.
A partial roof is in place – the rest a metal frame resembling a spider’s web -- for the classroom/administrative office.
“It’s going to be huge though,” St. Pierre said, staring at the building that will become the new front of Walker High facing Florida Boulevard.
“It’s more than a city block from here to Burgess (Avenue),” he said, gesturing back to the older part of the campus.
But the buildings still need academic classes to give them purpose.
St. Pierre can reel them off – a drone class, TV studio, underwater robotics class, the apparel store and Neighbors Federal Credit Union.
“We offer 13 AP classes,” he added.
The career track will offer “a great platform for kids to go to a four-year university or into the workplace,” St. Pierre said.
“Our school motto is ‘Opportunity today means success tomorrow,’ ’’ St. Pierre said.
That is the subject of a video posted on social media.
Put together in the school’s TV studio.
Kevin Fambrough is a reporter at the Livingston Parish News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @fambroughkevin.