BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer
When construction work is completed in 2025 on a 12-acre site that will contain a new J.S. Clark Leadership Academy campus, the event will represent the completion of a dream that officials from the charter school have pursued for over a decade.
J.S. Clark founder, president and CEO Tiffanie Lewis told the crowd that assembled for a recent ground-breaking event located near where La. 357 joins Park Avenue, that building the new school and athletic facilities for students in grades 5 through 12, represents a vision that she has had since the inception of Clark nearly 12 years ago.
It was always her dream, Lewis said, to start an Opelousas charter school. Now that effort, Clark said, has expanded to what represents a $20 million school Phase 1 expansion project.
Creating J.S. Clark, which educates students at all grade levels, wasn’t always easy, according to Lewis.
Lewis recalls having to get approval from the State Department of Education to operate J.S. Clark after the St. Landry Parish School Board rejected an application by the school.
“It has taken 10 years for us to make this happen. I was told no so many times, that we were not qualified or that we didn’t have the resources. So this is a big day for us. This has taken a long time coming,” Lewis maintained.
Lewis said it was no easy task to start a charter school.
“A lot of times we got stuck in the mud and bogged down. We had those bog downs and pitfalls. Looking at what we are doing now, this is what it means to come out of the mud. Our students deserve to be in this type of building,” Lewis added.
Lewis said she expects work on the property purchased by the school will begin sometime during the first part of December.
Brittany Dell, a member of the J.S. Clark Board of Directors, said it has been hard for her and other school officials to absorb the reality for the construction on the 52,000 square foot classroom complex.
“We are all just trying to take in the moment. This has been a 12-year journey, a mental, physical and spiritual journey,” said Deal.
Lewis described J.S. Clark as a “beacon of hope for Opelousas. If we save just one child, then we feel that we have done our work.”
Opelousas Mayor Julius Alsandor said it’s obvious what J.S. Clark has done for Opelousas-area students.
“We are seeing what (J.S. Clark) can do for our children and the vision that it has for Opelousas. We can now see what is about to happen and this is a change that is certainly welcomed,” said Alsandor.
State senator Gerald Boudreaux said a Health and Sciences Center that will be incorporated into the J.S. Clark’s curriculum will be named after his late daughter, Brittany.
Rudick Construction representative Lee Sawyer said when completed, J.S. Clark will possess a “state of the art campus that provides students with anything possible.”