East St. John Elementary School students will return to the classroom Monday after missing two weeks of school because of an Aug. 14 fire that badly damaged their campus.
The classes will meet at Leon Godchaux Junior High School in nearby Reserve, which hasn’t been used on a permanent basis in years, officials said Thursday. Teachers and staff will return to work on Friday, followed by pupils on Monday.
“We are ready to be back in school, and we are ready to have our … family back together,” Stacy Bradford, the school’s principal, said in a statement.
In order to make up for lost time, the typical school day at East St. John Elementary will now run 18 minutes longer — from 7:30 a.m. to 2:48 p.m. instead of from 7:40 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.
Also, students will be required to attend classes on four days they were slated to be off while school staff members participated in professional development activities. Those dates are Sept. 21, Nov. 2, Jan. 4 and Feb. 22.
Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School students also will be required to go to class on those four dates. That school is operating out of temporary buildings adjacent to the East St. John Elementary campus, and the fire forced it to cancel four days of classes.
Lake Pontchartrain has been occupying temporary buildings since Hurricane Isaac destroyed its campus in 2012.
The blaze at East St. John Elementary broke out about 12:15 a.m. Aug. 14 and wasn’t completely doused until several hours later. Investigators have said they believe it was accidental and started inside a utility closet in the school’s auditorium.
East St. John Elementary students weren’t able to immediately relocate to Godchaux because that facility had most recently hosted high schoolers and needed to be revamped to handle elementary school students.
East St. John High School students took classes at Godchaux for about three years after also losing their campus in Isaac. The high school returned to its home campus this summer, shortly before the fire at East St. John Elementary.
Following the fire, the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board authorized emergency modifications for Godchaux so it could house students from pre-K through eighth grade.