BACK ON CAMPUS: East St. John opening to students, community

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, July 29, 2015

RESERVE — The phrase “back to school” has never been more fitting for the 1,000-plus students, teachers and administrators who will walk through the doors of East St. John High School’s campus on Airline Highway when the school year starts Aug. 10.

A grand-reopening celebration will take place on campus from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Aug. 8.

A grand-reopening celebration will take place on campus from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Aug. 8.

The school’s buildings have been closed since 2012’s Hurricane Isaac sent flood waters flowing through school halls. This year’s group of seniors starting their final high school year were just freshmen — housed in a separate building on the campus’ footprint — when the natural disaster struck.

Since the flooding, students have been educated at Leon Godchaux High School’s campus on River Road in Reserve.

The completely renovated facilities students and teachers will enjoy at the Airline Highway school are bookended by two major personnel changes as well.

St. John the Baptist Parish Schools Superintendent Kevin George named Alden Foster as ESJ’s football and athletic director earlier this year, and in May, Cory Butler was announced as the school’s new principal.

“The momentum has already begun with renewed enthusiasm for our academic and athletic programs,” George said. “With new surroundings bring new expectations, and our community is excited about the new leaders in place at East St. John High School. These men have been charged with making East St. John High School the jewel of St. John the Baptist Parish.”

George said the new leaders “have the full support of the School Board, and our expectations are extremely high.”

An accomplished educator with close to 20 years experience, Butler comes to the parish following successful stints as principal at Ellender Memorial High School and Schwarz Alternative School, among many other stops, while Foster compiled an impressive record in his seven seasons at Amite, his team finishing as state runner-up in 2011 and 2014.

Foster also led St. Helena to a state finals appearance in 2004.

Butler said he and Foster are not strangers, as they competed against each other athletically in the past and have known each other for nearly 20 years.

George said he envisions the District soaring to top-10 status in the state, and highlights ESJ as key to that ascent since it is the district’s largest school.

“East St. John is our largest school, 31 percent of our kids (1,315 students) attend that school,” George said. “We know as East St. John goes, our entire district goes.”

Butler said he is eager to start the school year, and said increased communication efforts online and through other outlets will be aimed to get parents and the community more involved in the school.

“Second opportunities are few and far in-between,” Butler said, adding it is his mission to make sure students “maximize opportunities they have in every area” of high school.

George said ESJ and district leaders are also eager to “establish a culture of excellence and high expectations for everyone that walks through the doors of East St. John High School.”

“Every adult and child will work as one to make this a place where every parent aspires their child to attend,” George said. “That is the mission, and we will not fail.”

St. John the Baptist Parish School Board members will meet at East St. John High School at 2 p.m. Monday to “walk-though” the newly-reconstructed high school campus, in anticipation of the public opening next month.

A grand-reopening celebration will take place on campus from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Aug. 8.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will include speakers St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom, St. John the Baptist Parish School Board President Keith Jones, Superintendent Kevin R. George and East St. John High School Principal Cory Butler.

The ESJH band will lead a second line performance, and tours of the school will follow the ceremony.