Sixty-two years ago, Broadmoor Elementary opened in a new subdivision east of Airline Highway, becoming the first of many public schools to dot Goodwood Boulevard. On Thursday, the school reopened in a new $21.7 million facility.
It was one of dozens of public schools in East Baton Rouge Parish that started the 2018-19 school year on Thursday and one of six operating in new school buildings.
Six public schools under construction in Baton Rouge are set to open in August, in time for the start of the 2018-19 school year.
Despite a modern look and now sporting two stories, the rebuilt Broadmoor Elementary retains features of the past. The original sign with the school’s name graces the 86,000 square-foot facility’s main atrium. The walls in this central area also are filled with pictures from yesteryear, including ones of the school's three principals: Dorothy Roberts, Frances England and Larry Harris, who is starting his 26th school year as principal.
Over that time, Harris has amassed a loyal faculty.
“We love it,” said Lynn Hirschey, whose spent 10 years teaching at the school. “Great principal, great staff. Why go anywhere else?”
Barbara Sliman is part of that history. Her husband, Fred Sliman, and daughter, Kaitlyn, went to the school. Now granddaughter Lorelei is in fifth grade, one of 541 students at the elementary school, where enrollment was up 46 students compared to the first day a year ago. Grandma lives down the street and volunteers at the school, which she said has a “fantastic” staff that “will do anything to help those kids.”
“What a gift to the kids,” she said, staring at the new facility in the morning light. “And I’m so happy for the neighborhood.”
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Broadmoor Elementary School on June 20.
Less than two miles away on vacant land north of Cortana Mall, a very different kind of school was recently completed and could prove formidable competition.
Called IDEA Bridge, this 75,000-square-foot, two-story facility had its second day of school Thursday. It is one of two charter schools run by Rio Grande Valley, Texas-based IDEA Public Schools that opened Wednesday. The group’s other newly opened school, IDEA Innovation, southeast of LSU, is serving students primarily in the south Baton Rouge area.
The number of charter schools — public schools that are run privately via charters, or contracts — has grown from 25 last year to 28 this year in East Baton Rouge Parish.
IDEA’s two schools are among four new charters approved by the East Baton Rouge school system that are starting this year.
IDEA, which has been strictly in Texas until this year, has schools that have made national best high school lists. In addition to IDEA’s two new Baton Rouge schools, BASIS Baton Rouge, which also opened Wednesday in a new facility, is the first Louisiana school for another out-of-state charter group whose high schools also regularly top national lists.
The fourth new school, The Emerge School for Autism, is starting Aug. 16 with about 20 kindergartners. It’s located next door to IDEA Innovation.
IDEA is by far the biggest of the bunch. Its charter with East Baton Rouge allows it to eventually enroll more than 6,000 children in grades kindergarten to 12. The group currently operates 79 schools with 45,000 children; a year ago it had 51 schools and just 30,000 students.
A nationally prominent charter school organization setting up shop in Louisiana is already well-staffed considering its first two Baton Rouge …
Parent Wendy Cooks came to IDEA Bridge on Thursday to collect a prize. Thanks to a back-to-school raffle, she won an iPad Mini, which she plans to give to her son Jamauri, 11, who is starting sixth grade at the school. She said she was looking for middle schools for the boy and IDEA Bridge entered her radar early.
“I was passing by; I live just off of Monterrey (Boulevard),” she said. “And I saw them on social media, radio … They did a real good job with that.”
One bit of the school’s promotional pitch really got her attention: “The 100 percent college entrance rate. That’s unheard of.”
IDEA Bridge had a head start on its sister school in south Baton Rouge. Many of its students and teachers last year were at Baton Rouge Bridge Academy, which opened in 2015. Bridge agreed to give up its charter and leave its previous home, the dilapidated former Glen Oaks Middle School, and form the nucleus of this new school.
“We kept 100 percent of our teachers, every single one,” said Chloe Wiley, who founded that school and is now the elementary principal at IDEA Bridge. “We just had to add a bunch more because we had so many more students.”
When asked if she misses her old home, Wiley laughs darkly, “That’s really funny.”
“Kids on the first day were walking with their mouths open,” she said. “I cried when I walked through.”
As she has on first days of school in years past, LaQuida Davis stood in her doorway Wednesday morning, hugging one child after another as the…
The East Baton Rouge school system on Wednesday reported a total of 40,392 students. That’s seven more than on the first day of school a year ago. But it's still 1,396 fewer students than were on the rolls the first day of school in August 2016; two days later historic flooding hit Baton Rouge and surrounding areas.
Thursday’s first-day count is undoubtedly understated. Typically enrollment grows during the first weeks of school, peaking in late August. Moreover, district-sponsored charter schools are often slow to add students to the district’s enrollment system and this year is no exception. For instance, IDEA on Wednesday announced it has almost 1,000 students enrolled at its two Baton Rouge campuses, but on Thursday it reported just 417 students. BASIS Baton Rouge reported no students enrolled.
The first official enrollment count, which drives state education funding, is not until Oct. 1, while the second count is Feb. 1.
East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake sounded an upbeat note about Day 1.
“We’ve really had a great opening to the year and I hope that continues tomorrow,” Drake said.
He said facilities are in good shape and there are a few teacher vacancies at present, but they are manageable.
Transportation, however, has proved a weak spot once again because the school system is short on drivers and buses, Drake said. While the district works to train more drivers and get more buses on the road, “trail buses” are substituting, meaning some kids will get picked up and dropped off later than normal.
“There are routes that are being driven by drivers who are unfamiliar with their routes,” Drake said.