Redistricting process begins for St. John School Board

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 17, 2021

RESERVE — Josh Manning with South Central Planning attended last week’s St. John the Baptist Parish School Board meeting to give an update on redistricting, a process that occurs every 10 years after the release of the U.S. Census results.
School boards across the state must complete redistricting by March 1, 2022.
“All of the representative legislative bodies from Congress down to local School Boards and Councils are going through redistricting at this time,” Manning said. “We would have normally gotten the Census (results) in April 2021, but because of COVID-19 delays, we did not get it until August. A couple of weeks after the release, we had Ida. Several things have delayed this process, but we have tried to move along as efficiently as we can.”
Since the St. John School Board is comprised of 11 seats, Manning divided the 2020 St. John Parish population by 11 to determine the idea population for each of the each of the districts. He presented three potential plans for redistricting to get the population per district as close to 3,862 as possible.
According to Manning, School Districts One, Two and Four will need to gain population during the redistricting process. Meanwhile, Districts Six, Seven and Eight have grown over the last 10 years and will need to lose population.
“That doesn’t mean the other districts won’t have any changes. Every district will be touched in some way, shape or form, but some will have more drastic changes than others,” Manning said.
He added that St. John Parish lost population as a whole over the past 10 years.
“That is not unique to this parish,” Manning said. “We work with seven parishes, and only one, Lafourche Parish, gained population in the last 10 years.”
While most neighborhoods in St. John Parish lost population between 2010 and 2020, there has been concentrated population growth along Belle Terre Boulevard and Highway 51.
Of the three plans presented to the School Board last week, the first, called the “status quo alignment” was most similar to the current alignment of school districts. The plan would involve straightening the boundaries on some districts and balancing the populations. It is considered the most compact plan of the three and would require eight precinct splits.
Manning said South Central’s second potential plan “greatly changes the footprints of several districts” because it was built from the precincts up without looking at the current district alignments. This plan would place the incumbents of Districts Two and Three within the same district while seeking to minimize precinct splits.
The third option for re-districting is closer to the current alignment than option two. The major difference is that the alignment would cross the Mississippi River in the Garyville area, as opposed to where it currently crosses in LaPlace, causing some districts to shift Eastward to balance the population.
The School Board received information regarding each of these potential plans. The next step in the redistricting process will include selecting a plan and moving forward with a public hearing.