It’s a good feeling when you’re prepared. Approaching whatever event or circumstance, there’s a confidence that reigns in actions and words. So, it was indeed a good feeling last Thursday when School Board President Buddy Mincey Jr. (with great confidence) reminded a crowd at the regular meeting of the Denham Springs Kiwanis Club that the School Board had, indeed, purchased land in anticipation for a future high school to serve the Denham Springs area.
Mincey went on to say that the high school will keep; it won’t be necessary for several years as Denham Springs High School itself has room for almost 500 more students. Also, the current focus is on rebuilding two flooded elementary schools, Southside Junior High, and repurposing the old Southside Elementary campus into a vocational school to work in tandem with Denham High.
Those latter goals are important to the future of the district for a wide variety of reasons. Rebuilding of the schools shows recovery, and a move to a new future as both will be two-story and able to house more kids. The repurposing of Southside Elementary shows a focus on vocational education and its necessity in society.
However, the part about “several years” may not hold up to current growth. It took almost 44 years (1970 – 2014) for the parish to roughly quadruple in population, from 35,000 to 130,000. That’s about 2,160 people per year, although anyone who’s lived here since before 2005 knows that Katrina shifted the growth curve upward. Continual educational improvement, combined with new access to shopping, cheap real estate, and good law enforcement caused the growth curve to trend upward from linearity around 2006.
Now, the population is 147,000 with 761 new home permits issued in 2018 – 302 of which were in the 70726 ZIP code and was roughly 50 more than Watson, and exponentially higher compared with the rest of the parish. This does not include condominiums, apartments, or mobile home parks which are commercial developments – and can hold quite a few people, with average units for the new developments that have opened near Juban Crossing numbering 250.
And there’s still plenty of room for 70726 to develop, with (relatively) high-value real estate placing new residents close to the interstate.
It’s important to note that Denham Springs’ school district is by far the largest in the parish, extending from near the southern border of Watson all the way to Port Vincent in the south, and about halfway to Walker north of the interstate.
Simply put – the district is huge, and the growth is unparalleled in Livingston Parish, and nearly anywhere else in Louisiana. Even if just a third of those new residents place kids in the school system, that’s 150 students in one year.
And that’s conservative; the school system in Livingston Parish is attracting tons of families, especially since it’s so affordable to live here.
Granted, those 150 kids could be spread across nine (including kindergarten) other grades which are not high school. However, people have already moved to the 70726 and previously introduced their kids into the school system at a variety of ages, as well – and this will continue, as 70726 contains the most land for sale and ready to be developed.
Weyerhaeuser possesses much of the land in Livingston Parish.
So, will the new high school need to be ready in the next three years? Probably not, the school system will have plenty of time to focus on the final post-flood projects, as necessary. Five years, however? It seems that way, especially as growth continues to ramp up with new homes and new permits.
In fact, most homes which are either sold or rented are usually replaced with folks looking for the schools, and almost 100 homes were sold per month on average in 2018.
So, it’s a comfort to know that the land is available for a new high school, because if this growth trend continues the time to start planning and construction isn’t far – not a popular opinion for some, but the numbers are starting to stack up.