Lake Pontchartrain Elementary opens more than 5 years after hurricane shut it down

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, January 10, 2018

LAPLACE — Monday morning marked a long awaited new beginning for Lake Pontchartrain Elementary students.

Located at 3328 U.S. 51 in LaPlace, the new multi-million dollar Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School opened to students for the first time more than five years after the original site was severely damaged by flooding from Hurricane Isaac.

Stepping onto a fully constructed campus was a new experience for many elementary age children who have only known the trailers of a temporary campus.

For the past five years, LPE students in prekindergarten through eighth grade have attended school in a system of portable classrooms located at the former site of East St. John Elementary.

Settling into a new school with a functional gym, computer labs, fine arts classrooms and updated technological and security capabilities has been a long time coming, according to Principal Jason Beber.

He’s eagerly waiting to see students bring energy to the new building through their unique personalities and school spirit.

“I’m really excited to be off of a temporary campus and on our own home site,” Beber said. “Now we have our nest, and we’ll get to see the school come to life and the students put their mark on it with artwork, playing their instruments, basketball, baseball, volleyball and quiz bowl.”

Extracurricular sports and clubs were offered on the temporary campus but required traveling and borrowing facilities, Beber said.

The new gym, optimized for basketball and volleyball with a capacity to seat 480, is a new addition not present in the original structure.

Seventh grader Janneth Lopez, fifth grader Yahir Montejo and second grader Copitzy Lopez were among the students excited to begin spring semester on the new campus, and they said having space to play sports is one of the most exciting features.

“I like having a gym and not having to go back and forth to trailers,” Janneth said.

She remembers moving to the temporary campus in second grade and believes it’s important for students to have a school building to call their own.

During a ribbon cutting and tour held Saturday, Janneth and Yahir were impressed by the classrooms and cafeteria, which have received major upgrades with the school’s reconstruction.

Classrooms in the new building were designed to be kid-friendly and adaptable to present and future technology, according to Superintendent Kevin George.

Flexible seating, wifi and computer labs capable of accommodating every fourth through eighth grade student create an environment tailored for learning, he said.

“Anytime you have brand new facilities, it just enhances the product this school is already producing,” George said, adding school performance has already increased by 10.1 points in the past year.

“In trailers in a temporary building, this school was designated as a Top Gains School,” George said. “They can teach out of the park without a building. With this multi-million dollar building, we’re expecting great things coming from this school.”

George said parents and students were full of smiles during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, and many expressed thanks to administrators and School Board members for investing in the community.

“It’s a total revamp,” George said.

“It’s a state-of-the-art school, and anyone should be very proud to have their kids go here.”

The new school also promotes safety and security of students, according to Beber.

As students poured in Monday, Beber was excited about the efficiency of the two-lane bus and carpool drop-off system, a daily routine previously made hectic by limited space in the temporary campus parking lot.

Other safety features include a lighted entryway, a full electronic lockdown facility, more than 70 surveillance cameras and a single entry point requiring visitors to be buzzed in, Beber said.

Yeates and Yeates Architects oversaw construction of the facility.