Almost a decade after it moved to a new campus near Avondale, Louisiana’s top-ranked public high school finally has its own gymnasium.
At close to 19,000 square feet, the new activity center at Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy lets students stay put for basketball games, theater productions, band performances and more.
It’s the final component of an almost $40 million complex at the Churchill Technology and Business Park, and one that officials hope will spur growth in a sparsely developed part of Jefferson Parish’s west bank.
“These kids are the best and brightest in Louisiana, and it’s well past time that they’ve had a true high school experience,” said Brad Womack, Taylor’s athletic director, at a ribbon cutting Tuesday.
Practicing ‘anywhere and everywhere’
The sixth- through 12th-grade magnet school, which U.S. News and World Report ranked as the No. 1 public school in Louisiana, opened at its current location off Nicolle Boulevard in 2013.
Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy won top marks from U.S. News & World Report.
Until recently, however, the school’s athletic department was confined to a single classroom. Sophomore Cecilia Veters said the sound of football players lifting weights often echoed through the hallways.
Each day after school, Womack drove a busload of students elsewhere for practice. Layla Harwell, a junior, said the volleyball team ran drills “anywhere and everywhere.”
Despite not having a “home court, a home gym or a home stage to call their own,” senior Mason Mackie said Taylor students “continued to show up and show out,” recalling the days when the basketball team practiced in the parking lot.
“Now that we have our own home court, I’m here to assure you that the possibilities are endless,” Mackie said.
‘A little bittersweet’
The activity center, which cost $6.7 million to build, includes a gym and stage, locker rooms, a weight room, a concession stand and offices.
The building is located on an 11-acre complex that includes both Taylor and the Jefferson Economic Development Commission conference center. All three buildings were funded from the Louisiana state capital budget.
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The complex forms the core of the Churchill Technology and Business Park, a largely undeveloped plot of 480 acres that officials want to transform into a hub for regional research and development, job creation and investment.
Jefferson School Board President Clay Moise described Tuesday’s ribbon cutting as “a little bittersweet.”
“This is a great thing to celebrate. It’s awesome,” he said. “But every one of our kids deserves this, and they don’t have it.”
Schools Superintendent James Gray agreed, saying “every school in Jefferson Parish should look like this.”
Still, he said, “This is proof point of what is possible when all hands come together to do what is right for children.”