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Good Shepherd School plans new Gentilly campus

September 28, 2016

Good Shepherd School plans new Gentilly campus

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Fifth grader Niyla Carr shows U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to classrooms at the Good Shepherd School, a faith-based mission school that serves low-income families, in downtown New Orleans on Monday, November 4th, 2013. (Photo by Julia Kumari Drapkin, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Jennifer Larino, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune By Jennifer Larino, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune
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on September 28, 2016 at 10:11 AM

Good Shepherd Nativity Mission School will move to a new school building in Gentilly, which it expects to open in 2018. School leaders say the new campus will make room for more than twice as many students, including two new pre-kindergarten classes.

President Thomas Moran said the school’s 15,000-square-foot campus on Baronne Street in the Central Business District is “bursting at the seams,” welcoming a record 105 students this year.

The planned school building near the intersection of A.P. Tureaud Avenue and Agriculture Street will be about 40,000-square-feet and support between 250 and 300 students. It will feature a larger play yard and increased multi-purpose space among other upgrades.

The new location brings Good Shepherd closer to the community it serves, Moran added. Roughly 40 percent of its students live in Gentilly and surrounding neighborhoods, he said.

“Our mission calls us to bring the face of Jesus to every street corner where there is a need,” Moran said. “This literally brings the mission to where the people are.”

The late Rev. Harry Tompson founded Good Shepherd in 2001 while serving as pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in the CBD. The school’s mission was to provide quality education and other services for students growing up in impoverished areas of inner city New Orleans.

Today, the private Catholic school is unique in offering tuition-free education for low-income students. Parents pay a $125 activity fee and complete service work at the school. Fundraising and state vouchers cover tuition.

A rendering of the new Good Shepherd Nativity Mission School campus to open in Gentilly in 2018. The new building, located just off the intersection of A.P. Tureaud Avenue and Agriculutre Street, will have room for up to 300 students, more than doubling Good Shepherd’s student seats. (Image courtesy Good Shepherd Nativity Mission School) 

Father Tompson, who died just before the Baronne Street campus opened in 2001, left behind a vision for a network of schools located in and serving New Orleans’ poorest communities.

Moran, who joined Good Shepherd in February, said the school has spent recent years searching for property to renovate or develop. Plans fell into place this year when regional contractor Gallo Mechanical put its warehouse and office site in Gentilly up for sale, he said.

The Gallo family, long-time supporters of Catholic education, sold the parcels at 1839 Agriculture St. to Good Shepherd for about $1.2 million in May, he said.

“It was a godsend in many regards,” Moran said. “You couldn’t have scripted it better.”

The extra space at the new building will allow Good Shepherd to gradually expand from one to two classes for each grade from kindergarten through seventh grade. Classes hold between 15 and 20 seats. The school also plans to roll out two new pre-kindergarten classes for 4-year-old children.

Moran said Good Shepherd has long sought to add an early childhood education class but simply didn’t have the space.

Safety guidelines require pre-kindergarten classes to be located on the first floor, Moran said. Good Shepherd kindergarten and first-grade classes already share that space in the Baronne Street campus, he said.

“Getting kids into a classroom early is essential,” he said, adding the school will need to hire at least 10 new teachers and staff to support the growth.

The new school is currently in the planning and design phase. Blitch Knevel Architects was hired to design the school. Ryan Gootee General Contractors will oversee construction.

Moran said Good Shepherd is still calculating the final cost of the school, but is in the middle of a campaign to raise $4 million to pay for the project. Private donors have already committed to provide half of that goal, he said.

Proceeds from New Market tax credits and the sale of the Baronne Street campus will also help offset the cost the project, Moran added.

Contractors still need to firm up a timeline, but construction is expected to last from 18 to 24 months. That would allow the new building to open for the 2018-19 school year.

“We’re looking at being at the current location for this school year and the next,” Moran said.

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