Six plans considered for redistrict schools before new elementary opens

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 13, 2008


Staff Reporter

RESERVE – Students attending LaPlace Elementary and East St. John Elementary who live south of Airline Drive will be attending the new Emily C. Watson Elementary school next year, if any but one of the elementary school redistricting plans unveiled by Superintendent Michael Coburn in the St. John School Board meeting last week are approved.

Also affected will be students attending East St. John Elementary in the areas surrounding Airline, who would attend 5th Ward Elementary, and students attending Lake Pontchartrain Elementary who live on and east of Windsor Boulevard, who would attend Emily C. Watkins.

Coburn revealed six alternative elementary redistricting plans that were developed by South Central Planning Development Commission due to the introduction of the new Emily C. Watkins Elementary into the system.

Most of the plans focus on student population of LaPlace Elementary, academically the highest ranking non-magnet school in the district and the school with the lowest number of minority students.  

Two of the plans proved to be the most popular.

Alternative two, which Coburn supported, would lower the number of students attending LaPlace Elementary while also lowering the percentage of minority students from 70% to 61%.

Some board members were concerned that the lower number of minorities would cause alternative two to be rejected by the Department of Justice, which oversees a forced desegregation order in St. John.

Alternative three, which incoming Superintendent Courtney Millet supported, would extend LaPlace Elementary’s western boundary to Belle Terre Boulevard while keeping close to the same number of students and lowering the percentage of minority students from 70% to 64%.

Although alternative three would keep a higher number of minorities in the school, Coburn said it has the potential of overcrowding the system. He also said that the expanded district may cause an unexpected increase in the student population at LaPlace Elementary due to students who are currently in private elementary schools wanting to attend LaPlace Elementary because of its superior academic performance in comparison to East St. John Elementary, whose district the children are in now.

Other plans received little public support due to problems with overcrowding.

Board members decided to seek feedback from administrators in the parish’s elementary schools and the general public beforing voting on the proposals.

A vote is expected in the school board’s March 30th meeting.

After the board votes in favor of a plan they will have to send it for review to the Justice Department who will compare the racial and socioeconomic makeup of the districts before verifying or rejecting the plan. The process is expected to take 60 days.

If the plan is rejected, the Justice Department may choose to put forth their own plan. Board member Matthew Ory expressed his desire to propose a plan that would be accepted “so we know what we are looking at” instead of having the Justice Department make the selection.