Alumni, school officials welcome freshmen back to ESJ campus

Published 12:01 am Thursday, March 24, 2022

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RESERVE — East St. John alumni and school officials welcomed freshmen and alternative assessment students with open arms Wednesday morning as they arrived to their home campus for the first time since August.

As students stepped off of buses, they were met with grab-and-go breakfast and an assortment of balloons. A live DJ, popcorn and a snowball machine awaited students under the school’s breezeway. Cheerleaders formed a tunnel for scholars to walk through, while the smiling faces of alumni and staff warmed spirits on a cool and breezy morning.

Schools were shuttered for nearly two months after Hurricane Ida devastated the River Parishes on August 29, 2021. East St. John’s campus sustained significant damage, forcing students to platoon at the much smaller Leon Godchaux campus.

St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard and Sheriff Mike Tregre were present as students returned to campus this week. They commended students for their resiliency in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and wished them success for the remainder of the school year.

School Board member Shawn Wallace was among the alumni present to welcome more than 200 freshmen home.

“We’re just happy to have our freshmen back in the building along with our administrators and their staff,” Wallace said. “This is a resilient campus. We’ve really been through a lot with the COVID pandemic and then the hurricane. This is an exciting day.”

Students initially attended Leon Godchaux in morning/evening shifts before transitioning to an A-Day/B-Day schedule. Nearly seven months after Hurricane Ida Wednesday, March 23 marked the return of five-day-a-week, in-person learning for all East St. John scholars.

Freshmen returned home to the main campus to attend classes in the 300 and 400 buildings that recently received clearance.

With other areas of the main campus still undergoing repairs, 10th through 12th grade scholars are continuing to report to the Leon Godchaux site five days a week. The entire Wildcat family is expected to reunite on the main campus at the start of the next school year, according to assistant principal Beatrice Crosby.

“We’re having a fantastic celebration for our FSA students and our alternative assessment students. They are coming home for the first time since the storm, and we want to celebrate them,” Crosby said. “We just want them to feel relaxed and feel welcomed home.”

Freshman Janaya Mitchell said it will be an adjustment to go back to attending school five days a week, but she was feeling optimistic about her schedule once she arrived on campus Wednesday morning. After seeing the efforts alumni had put into the welcome home celebration, she looked forward to enjoying a nice and relaxing day.

Taylor Griffin said she met a lot of her friends in the first few weeks of freshman year at the East St. John campus.

“It’s a lot different being back because over there (at the Leon Godchaux campus), we were in a small school and gym. Now we have more space,” Griffin said.

Neveah Weber had a few “first day” jitters when it came to finding her classes, but she and fellow student Tajai Riley agreed that it felt nice to be back at East St. John.

“It brings back a lot of memories from the first time we were here,” Riley said.

Most of all, the students were excited to fully represent East St. John and show their Wildcat pride.