Public schools throughout East Baton Rouge Parish are racing to get the 2016-17 school year under way. More than 45,000 children are expected to return Tuesday after flooding forced them to stay out of school for most of August.
Central’s five schools, East Baton Rouge Parish’s 77 schools, and three charter schools with connections to the parish's public school system are set to reopen on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. Works crews, teachers and volunteers have been working for weeks at the most affected schools but some work will continue throughout the holiday weekend.
Livingston Parish public schools, which suffered the most extensive damage from the flooding, are not reopening until Sept. 12.
Many traditional public schools throughout the capital region have already reopened, as have almost all charter and private schools, often within days of floodwater receding.
The historic flooding in August caused at least $50 million in property damage to East Baton…
Glen Oaks High School suffered extensive flooding on most of its campus at 6650 Cedar Grove Drive. Made largely of cinder block, the school was at first thought a candidate for quick repairs. Crews, however, soon discovered that parts of the school had flood-soaked drywall and reopening plans were delayed.
Instead, students from the high school, and seven other flooded Baton Rouge public schools, are relocating to other campuses. Those relocations are also forcing four more schools to move.
On the front of Northdale Academy, 10755 Cletus Drive, there's a newly installed sign for Glen Oaks High School sharing space with signs for Northdale Academy, the school it is supplanting. Northdale is moving to 1645 North Foster Drive where it will share space with Greenville Superintendent’s Academy, another alternative school.
Glen Oaks High School Principal Edward Hunter said he’s consciously maintaining all things that say Northdale on them so the school can more easily return, most likely in January.
“We don’t want to disrespect them,” said Hunter.
Twelve of Hunter’s faculty, roughly a quarter, suffered flooding at home. Consequently, the principal said, he's tried to avoid adding additional disruption at schools. For instance, only two teachers will have to float at Northdale; the rest have their own classrooms.
“I want this to feel like home,” he said, “albeit a temporary home.”
While the surrounding neighborhood was heavily flooded -- debris piles line Cletus Drive -- the Northdale campus itself received minimal flooding.
Hunter showed the one flooded classroom in the rear corner of the school, pointing to where the water spilled in through windows. The building was cleaned up and dried out and passed an air inspection Friday.
“I got authorized to move in just last night,” Hunter said Saturday.
The two maintenance workers who had previously been at Glen Oaks High were busy Saturday waxing floors in the building that was flooded. On Monday, teachers will come in to decorate their new rooms.
Otherwise the campus is largely ready to go. Hunter said much of the relocating work was done in advance of Aug. 24, the original day when parish public schools were to start, a restart postponed for 13 days.
East Baton Rouge Parish schools, which had been scheduled to reopen Wednesday, now won't reo…
Not all of the school has moved. Athletic teams will take buses every day to head back to north Baton Rouge to practice in the high school’s un-flooded gym and football field, Hunter said. The Panthers’ first home game will be held there Friday.
A big wildcard for all schools in Baton Rouge is whether the students enrolled before the flooding will return. Thousands have been displaced. As of Thursday, more than 150 children from parish public schools were sheltering at the Baton Rouge River Center.
Hunter said he's optimistic that most students will return, but knows a few won’t.
“We do have a few students who have moved out of the state to be with family,” he said.
In Central, only one of its five schools, Tanglewood Elementary, flooded, despite flooding all over Central. However, Central, which has steadily grown in enrollment since it broke away from East Baton Rouge Parish in 2007, was already short on space.
For at least the first semester, while Tanglewood is rebuilt, its first and second-graders will move take over two gyms and a multipurpose room at Central Intermediate and Central Middle school campuses, which are next to each other.
Public schools in Central sustained between $6 million and $8 million in flood damage, the b…
Superintendent Michael Faulk said school employees and volunteers were at the intermediate and middle schools Saturday setting up the new classrooms. Once the schools open, they will help ease the burdens of parents as they set about rebuilding their lives, he said.
“They won’t have anything to worry about when their kids are at school,” Faulk promised.
On Thursday, the school district had a setback when two thieves, not as yet identified, stole school uniforms and other supplies that were to be given Tuesday to flood-affected children. The school district put out a call for help Friday morning on its Facebook page and more than replaced what was stolen. Faulk said he still hopes to find out who stole the stuff, saying they look like school-age kids.
“We got them on video,” Faulk said. “They were wearing red uniforms. They weren’t ones of ours.”