New MSA-East school opening doors Friday

Deidre Cruse

Iberville Math, Science and Arts Academy-East students will move into a brand, spanking new school Friday (August 12) as classes open for the 2011-12 year.

They and their parents can get a preview of the innovative building at an open house at 6 p.m. Monday. An official dedication ceremony will be scheduled after Labor Day.

In its first three years, MSA-East was housed in temporary quarters at the St. Gabriel Community Center. The new school – the first in Iberville Parish in some 20 years – is located next door to the community center on La. 30.

The East academy had served students in grades 5-10, but this year will be a full K-12 school – with two classes each in grades three and six, and one section in the other grades.

“We took everybody that had applied at that point,” said Chief Academic Officer Elvis J. Cavalier, who has headed the MSA program since its inception. “There was no waiting list then. There is a waiting list now.”

The school was built to house 285 students. So far, 220 have registered, but that number changes every day, Cavalier said.

The new school in St. Gabriel has been termed a state-of-the-art school because of various architectural and structural features. According to architect Henry Carville, who is a Plaquemine native and principal of Bani, Carville, Brown, Inc., AIA,  “It is designed to meet ‘Gold LEED’ Certification, including the highest rated heating and cooling systems designed for buildings in the state.”   This means it has Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards that are cutting edge for the nation, the architect said. 

Working with the school system and the architectural firm has been certified sustainability consultant and energy auditor, Jennifer Waddick, co-founder of The Energy Group, the firm that guided the LEED certification process. 

“MSA East will be applying for the Gold Level Certification through the U.S. Green Building Council,” Waddick said.

The school has extensive energy efficiency systems in its design, including a solar hot water system that produces 100 percent of the school’s hot water and a solar photovoltaic system that produces enough electricity to power its science labs.

“The Energy Group modeled the building to be over 40 percent more efficient than the typical school building built in the United States today. These efficiencies will save the school $20,000 per year and it will use 30% less water,” Waddick said.

“The architects also worked with award-winning landscape designers, Reich Associates of Baton Rouge, to create a school that we think will be one of the best in the state,” said Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne, Jr.  

“The courtyard is an oasis providing several garden areas, biology study sites, outdoor seating areas, nighttime functions spaces, and a center for learning. It is an added resource “classroom” for additional teaching space,” Cavalier said.

The school facility in total is 53,000 square feet, located on 16.317 acres, featuring multi-purpose rooms.

It was also designed for expansion because of expected growth as planned subdivisions open in the area. The new site uses only 60 percent of the current acreage, leaving additional property located on its southwest corner for future expansion.

In brief, the school features a large courtyard and staging area, or student “center,” within the school’s overall “U-shaped” design. 

“This will be an important focus of many school activities,” Cancienne said.

One wing is designated for upper grades, one for lower grades, with a dining “cafetorium.” This area also has a portable stage, and a room divider, allowing for gym activities as well, including moveable basketball goals for court play.

There are 13 core classrooms but numerous other specialty rooms, including two computer labs, a multi-media library, creative and beautifully lit theatrical center and “Black Box” acting space, science lab for elementary and two science labs for high school, and administrative area with teacher labs, counseling offices, student health area, and physical education dressing rooms.  The kindergarten has a separate playground on the North end of the Elementary wing.

“This school and the MSA-West in Plaquemine are signs of a new era of educational excellence for public education in the parish, giving academic advantages to our students,” Cancienne said.

He praised the school board members for their assistance in directing the project.

“I especially want to reach out to the East Iberville community leaders, including the Town of St. Gabriel, business and industry, and our own East Iberville school board members--Melvin Lodge, Nancy Broussard and the board’s Building and Grounds Committee--who have all dedicated many, many hours to making the project a reality for this growing community and for the parish.”