Making room for scholars: Compliance issues & trailer placement discussed as School District recovers from Ida

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 15, 2021

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LAPLACE — Due to funding and compliance issues, the St. John the Baptist Parish School District needs to move four Emily C. Watkins early childhood classes currently housed at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary.
Bonnie Dinvaut, supervisor of instructional technology supporting early childhood programs, said guidelines allow for only 20 students to be in a classroom at one time. The St. John School District has been out of compliance since reconfiguring classroom settings in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. This could jeopardize crucial funding needed to keep the programs operating. According to Dinvaut, funding includes $1.3 million for Head Start, $350,000 for LA 4, and $76,000 for Model Early.
The deadline to get into compliance is 30 days, but Dinvaut said on-site monitoring can happen at any time, without warning, in the form of pop-up visits.
“At this time, we have two homerooms in one class. No matter that classroom size or the number of teachers in that classroom, the guidelines state only 20 students can be in the classroom at a time. As of December 7, we are out of compliance with four of our Lake Pontchartrain Head Start classrooms and four of our Emily C. Watkins pre-K classrooms that are housed at Lake Pontchartrain,” Dinvaut said.
The leadership team came up with possible solutions, one of which includes bringing trailers for the four ECW classes and placing them on the grounds at Lake Pontchartrain. However, the time and labor associated with this option would not be ideal. The second option is to move the ECW pre-K classes to a finished portion of LaPlace Elementary along with the LES pre-K scholars. The third option, which the early childhood team views as the best option, is to move four ECW pre-K classes to the early childhood wing at Garyville Magnet.
A survey sent out to ECW pre-K parents received 31 responses, and 18 families indicated they were in support of a move to the Garyville campus.
As the District continues to recover from Hurricane Ida, St. John Parish Schools are still looking to increase classroom space for East St. John High School students.
East St. John is currently operating on a hybrid A Day/ B Day schedule due to space constraints at the Leon Godchaux host campus. Assistant Principal J. Vincent Brown said 75 classroom teachers are employed at East St. John, while there are only 37 classrooms available for instruction at the Leon Godchaux site. There are currently 329 students participating in the virtual academy.
“Unfortunately, we cannot operate under one schedule as the entirety of what’s known as The E unless trailers are brought in to accommodate the student body. We will continue on our A/B block schedule until the infrastructure allows everyone to return as one,” Brown said.
Superintendent Dr. Lynett Hookfin said St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools have been privileged to receive a donation of trailers from Mississippi. Approximately 50 trailers are available, and St. John Schools would only need to pay for transportation.
Cindy Janecke of All South Consulting Engineers advised the School Board that placement of trailers is not an overnight process. Each trailer would need to be inspected in accordance with state and local guidelines involving ramp structures, special systems, fire law and Internet installation. It is also necessary to have adequate space for the trailers and a base for them to sit on.
Trailers have previously been placed behind the cafeteria at Leon Godchaux, and the infrastructure already in place may be serviceable. However, inspections to determine the suitability of the trailers or the Leon Godchaux site had not taken place at the time of the School Board meeting.
“We have not been given any schedule of when this might arrive…It does take quite a bit of time,” Janecke said. “Depending on how you procure the trailers, it could take you months.
“It depends on the number of trailers you are looking at bringing in.”