Community groups, local philanthropists and Lafayette Parish school officials gathered at Lafayette Middle School on Thursday to celebrate the launch of Love Our Schools, a service initiative aimed at revitalizing Lafayette's schools.
The project’s initial goal is to provide interior and exterior improvements to eight Transformation Zone schools in a one-day service event July 13, while also providing backpacks to about 5,000 students and resources to more than 600 teachers and school support staff.
Organizers plan to have 2,000 to 4,000 volunteers working at the campuses on the service day.
Schools in the Transformation Zone are schools that have received a D or F rating for two consecutive years.
The schools include Acadian Middle School, Alice N. Boucher Elementary School, Carencro Heights Elementary School, Carencro High School, J.W. Faulk Elementary School, Lafayette Middle School, LeRosen Preparatory School and Northside High School.
The project is the first phase of a long-term goal to increase opportunities in the community through improved education, supporters said.
“Love Our Schools is more than just renovating eight schools and providing school supplies. It’s a catalyst to bring people and institutions in the community together to support a lifelong mission to improve education and facilitate a transformation in our community,” Dr. William Schumacher said.
The William C. Schumacher Family Foundation, led by CEO Ryan Domengeaux, is heading the initiative with Love Acadiana, the outreach ministry arm of Our Savior’s Church, a nondenominational Christian church with campuses across Acadiana.
Domengeaux said it’s practical for the state to recognize its low standing in national educational rankings, but the focus should be on making progress and increasing community investment.
“We all have to be dedicated to the change — no matter who you are. We all own this problem,” Domengeaux said.
Love Acadiana and the Schumacher Family Foundation have worked independently to improve schools in the community.
Love Acadiana executive director Cindy Dilena said her organization has donated school supplies and organized service days in the past, but Schumacher’s foundation was able to bring scale and financial support to increase the service potential significantly. It’s the next evolution of Love Acadiana’s previous Serve Day efforts.
It was a natural partnership, they said.
Domengeaux, Dilena and partners from other local organizations are touring schools Thursday and Friday to determine project priorities at the eight Transformation Zone schools. This is the second round of tours for the team, Dilena said, and they hope to work out a project priority list soon.
Dilena said the team is working closely with principals to determine which improvements will have the greatest effect on both teachers and students, whether it’s improvements to a teacher’s lounge or a new deck where students can gather to eat lunch.
Making physical improvements is about more than beautification, supporters said.
“The idea of painting and landscaping and facility improvements in those schools is about changing the climate and the culture about attending classes in those buildings,” Lafayette Parish Superintendent Donald Aguillard said Thursday.
The one-day event will require considerable coordination of donations, volunteers and materials, and the initiative is partnering with Eight Days of Hope, a national crisis relief organization, to execute the project. Eight Days of Hope has worked in the community since the 2016 floods and they were passionate about continuing to serve, Dilena said.