St. John school enrollments boosted by Katrina

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

RESERVE – More than 7,200 students are enrolled in St. John the Baptist Parish public schools as of November of this year, accounting for an increase of nearly 1,000 students over last year, according to the school system’s latest head-count.

Most of the increase has come from student-evacuees who relocated to the parish after losing their homes and/or schools in other parishes because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Still, some growth has come from the continued retention of existing students and the addition of some private school students.

In fact, school officials had expected a fourth consecutive year of enrollment growth prior to the influx of new student-evacuees.

&#8220We were seeing a steady increase in our enrollment numbers prior to the hurricane, and we were expecting several students to enroll after Labor Day, so there’s no doubt, that even without the increases from the hurricanes, we would have had another year of growth,” St. John the Baptist Parish School Assistant Superintendent Wilbert Ocmond said.

Ocmond said the system’s K-8 campuses and award-winning career pathway curriculums offered at East St. John High School have been catalysts for the growth. He also noted that the district’s test scores have been steadily improving.

&#8220The numbers show that we are retaining more of our students and attracting others back, and that’s great news for our school system and for our communities,” Ocmond said. &#8220We’re making great progress since we started our ‘turnaround’ efforts under Superintendent Mike Coburn three years ago.”

Josh Hall and his sister, Joelle Hall, transferred from Riverside Academy to East St. John High School this year to take advantage of the school’s career pathways curriculum.

&#8220I want to be a chef when I graduate, so I’m enrolled in the school’s culinary arts program. East St. John High gives me the opportunity to get a head-start on what I want to do. Nothing like that’s available at Riverside,” Hall said.

East St. John High School Counselor Carol Mills said she has worked with several private school transfers this year. &#8220We are careful to work with them to ensure that they take the courses best suited for their needs and aspirations. In particular, we try to make sure all our college-bound students meet the TOPS requirements,” she said.

The official enrollment for this school year is 6,373, according to the Oct. 1 count, which normally is used to determine a school district’s level of state funding according to the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) formula.

However, this year’s formula is likely to be altered by state officials because of changes caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Last year’s official MFP count credited St. John the Baptist Parish Schools with 6,210 students, which was up nearly 80 students from the previous year. Last year, the district was rated as the state’s fourth-fastest growing district.

However, since Oct. 1, numbers for the district have continued to grow, with the enrollment jumping to 7,283 as of Nov. 3.

Displaced students accounted for 986 students in that Nov. 3 count, Superintendent Michael Coburn announced at Thursday’s (Nov. 3) school board meeting, noting that the district has retained about two-thirds of the displaced students who first enrolled on Sept. 12.

The overall, parish-wide breakdown of student enrollment for the Nov. 3 count is as follows:

East St. John High School – 1,697 students

Lake Pontchartrain Elementary – 1,033 students

LaPlace Elementary – 1,050 students

East St. John Elementary – 894 students

Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet – 642 students

Fifth Ward Elementary – 505 students

John L. Ory Magnet – 469 students

West St. John Elementary – 371 students

West St. John High – 238 students

St. John Child Development Center – 197 students

Leon Godchaux Alternative Program – 130 students

Redirection Center – 57 students.