St. John Focus on Schools: New structure will make difference

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 19, 2002


The voters of St. John the Baptist Parish will make a very important decision Saturday on the direction of our public school system. They will vote on a proposal to allow the school system to restructure all elementary schools on the East Bank to K-8 grade schools. With voter approval, the school system can borrow the necessary funds for the project at NO cost to the taxpayers and begin to make a positive difference in the lives of our children. It is important that voters take the time to vote on this issue.

The K-8 reconfiguration will allow seventh graders and eighth graders to remain on their current elementary campuses, thereby eliminating transition problems created during the move of students from one campus to another during this crucial time period. Their classrooms will be structured in a way that they will have the advantages and comforts of being at their same neighborhood campuses, but they will be separated from the younger students for learning and discipline purposes.

Research shows that K-8 schools can improve student enrollment in the St. John the Baptist Parish public schools. Moreover, research suggests that K-8 schools enjoy higher student standardized test scores, are able to recruit and retain certified teachers, provide better service delivery to special needs students and have greater parental involvement. Simply put, K-8 schools create a greater sense of community that is ultimately reflected in participation, in attitude and in performance!

The K-8 reconfiguration plan has also received preliminary approval from the U.S. Justice Department, which notes that the plan does not adversely affect our efforts to maintain a proper racial balance in our schools. The K-8 reconfiguration will take two school years to complete at an investment price of nearly $5 million, which can be borrowed and repaid by the school system at no cost to taxpayers.

LaPlace Elementary, East St. John Elementary, Fifth Ward Elementary and John L. Ory Magnet schools will add seventh and eighth grades during the next two years. Seventh-graders will remain on their elementary campuses this school year, with eighth-graders advancing as before to their next appointed campus. However, by next year, classrooms and facilities will be in place for both seventh-graders and eighth -graders to remain housed on their current campuses.

Additional changes to be completed by next year include moving kindergarten classes from St. John Child Development Center to Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet and building a new gymnasium at Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet to better serve junior high athletic programs.

The restructure plan will allow the St. John the Baptist Parish School System to make a positive change for our children, our parents, our teachers and our community overall.

MICHAEL COBURN is superintendent of public schools for St. John the Baptist Parish.