The Catholic Commentator 

Modular buildings have been secured, desks arranged, chalkboards cleaned, the broad smiles on young faces expressing relief as well as a renewed enthusiasm for learning. 

Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan High School has completed its arduous odyssey that saw students spend 17 months at Bon Carre Business Park in Baton Rouge before finally resettling in modular buildings at the site of the old Redemptorist High School. 

Now the heavy lifting begins, as school officials strategize for a future that includes a major fundraising campaigning that could top out at close to $10 million. 

Cristo Rey president Brian Moscona acknowledged that for the past 17 months, after being displaced by the August 2016 flood, school officials have been in survival mode. Now, they are shifting gears to raise funds and effectively plan for a new school building that will eventually house 400-500 students. 

‘It’s going to take the Baton Rouge community coming together to make this happen,” Moscona said. “The key to Cristo Rey is a unifying concept; all about giving young people a chance.” 

Currently, the school administration is awaiting final word from FEMA as to what damages Cristo Rey will be awarded arising from the flood, which drove students to Bon Carre only two weeks after they had moved into the former Redemptorist quarters. Once FEMA arrives at that number, which will likely be in the range of $1.5 million to $2 million, officials will be able to determine how much will need to be raised for a new school, which will come with a price tag of an estimated $8 million to $10 million, according to Moscona. 

“(The FEMA money) certainly would be a substantial start to a new building,” Moscona said. “We’ll be looking for individuals, corporations, foundations who really want to make an impact for students in north Baton Rouge.” 

Noting that everything is contingent on FEMA, Moscona said he is hopeful that process will be completed by the summer, which will trigger the design phase. Once that is completed, with the cost of the new building in hand, the fundraising campaign can begin “as soon as possible,” according to Moscona. 

Although a timetable has yet to be established, he said extensions on the modular buildings are an option through FEMA after three years. Another option is to purchase the buildings, which would allow officials more time to develop a long-term solution. 

“The buildings are very nice, very sturdy with ample space,” he said. 

Outgoing Cristo Rey board chairman Vic Howell reiterated Cristo Rey’s commitment to remain in north Baton Rouge, an area that has witnessed a rise in crime. Moscona and Howell agree that Cristo Rey can serve as a catalyst for economic development in the area, especially when a new school is constructed. 

Howell said he realized how important having a school in the area was to the neighborhood immediately after it originally opened. He said he was overwhelmed and gratified by the support from neighboring families and businesses, making the decision to return to the site after the flood that much easier. 

“We know there are long range plans for development in north Baton Rouge,” Howell said. “(City officials) see us as an anchor. With all of that, it was not a hard decision to say we have to go back to north Baton Rouge. Everyone is delighted that we are here.” 

Moscona agreed that new construction should help attract families and businesses into the area. 

“We hope to be a catalyst for economic development, for life and for activity in north Baton Rouge,” he said. “We have the potential to make a significant impact by having a joy-filled presence in that space. 

“You have the sound of young people learning, of playing. I think that’s just great for the neighborhood and environment and (hopefully) lead others to be apart of it.

“There’s a feeling (among board members) that’s where God wanted Cristo Rey.”