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(Photo: St. Landry Parish School Board Members Kyle Boss and Hazel Sias)
BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer

Although the cost is expected to be considerably higher than previously anticipated, St. Landry Parish School Board recently agreed to purchase a bio-med campus in Opelousas from the state department of health.

The District now has until Dec. 30 2025 to complete a costly roof repair at the facility in order to finalize the purchase of the gymnasium, classroom building and approximately 12 acres of property now valued by state officials at $1 million.

A cooperative endeavor agreement between the Louisiana Department of Heath and the District indicates that the District must complete the costs of the extensive roof issues that will be deducted from the final purchase price of the building and property.

State officials estimate that it will cost at least $700,000 to repair the roof at the facility. That amount however is less than the estimated $900,000 in roof repair costs that District officials have discussed previously during Building Lands and Sites Committee meetings.

Both the District and LDH have conducted separate appraisals of the bio-med facility during a series of  long-term negotiations which have occurred between the two parties.

The biomed program next to Opelousas High that accepts students parishwide was created nearly 20 years ago, following a federal desegregation order signed by the District in order to achieve unitary status.

Other campuses required by the same desegregation order also led to the creation of the Magnet Academy for Cultural Arts and the St. Landry Alternative Training School.

Superintendent Milton Batiste III told board members during the meeting that 101 students currently attend the biomed school which offers specialized courses and training in various medical fields.

The LDH currently owns the campus buildings and the property while leasing both to the District at no cost as long as parish officials maintain the property and the buildings.

Board member Kyle Boss questioned the purchase of the property and classrooms due to the high cost for the roof repairs. Boss also asked about the feasibility of fixing a roof for structures the District doesn’t currently own.

Finance Director Shaun Grantham said at this point she could not recommend pursuing the proposed purchase agreement.

Grantham said the District is anticipating the continued loss of the state Minimum Foundation Program funding due to annual student losses.

Board member Hazel Sias said the District has not paid anything to the state in order to facilitate the biomed program. Sias added that it might be costly to find an alternative site if the biomed program has to be moved to another campus.

Sias and board member Milton Ambres each said that it would be tragic for Opelousas if the biomed program was removed from its current location.