One Donaldsonville school will start classes on Monday, a week earlier than the rest of Ascension Parish public schools, Public Information Officer Johnnie Balfantz said.

The week of half-day sessions - from 8 a.m. to noon - is part of a new initiative called Jump Start, and mandatory for all Lowery Elementary School students, Principal Lakesa Dixon said.

The program, funded by a portion of a $1 million, three-year School Improvement Grant, also known as a SIP grant, from the Louisiana Department of Education, is meant to give the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders a chance to refresh their memories after a long summer break, “so they’ll be caught up and ready to go when the school year begins,” Dixon said.

Jump Start satisfies one of the requirements of the grant - to extend learning time for students.

“We got together and brainstormed about how best to do that, and what kind of program would be most effective,” Dixon said.

They looked into how other schools with SIP grants met this requirement, and found that many opted to make school days longer during the year, or to tack on the additional instruction time at the end of the school year.

She talked to teachers, who reported that many students in this age group tend to get burned out around 2 p.m., “and it’s a challenge to keep them engaged that last hour. A longer day wouldn’t work for us,” she said.

Extending the school year into the summer was out, too, she said, because the added instructional time would fall after the students take iLeap and Leap tests.

“Where we found we needed that additional support was at the start of the year,” Dixon said, so Jump Start followed.

In addition to refreshing the math and reading skills they’ve learned so far, students will also take assessment tests in those subjects, she said.

That, she said, gives teachers a jump start, too.

“That will give us data to analyze so we’ll know where students need extra help before school starts,” Dixon said.

For those who do need extra help, Lowery Elementary is implementing a Saturday school, she said. Students who qualify will get extra tutoring two Saturdays a month, from 8 a.m. to noon, starting in September.

Rewards from the programs will far outweigh any sacrifice by students and their families, she said, because children who are behind when they arrive are given better odds of catching up.

The grant also paid for transportation to and from school, as well as breakfast, lunch and school supplies for the extra week at no cost to students.

That means most of Lowery’s teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers also agreed to start a week early.

But, Dixon said, she’s heard no complaints. “They’re ready to move those scores,” she said. “All I’ve heard from them is, ?We’ll do whatever it takes.’ “

There will be no classes Aug. 8 and 9, and the first full day is Aug. 10.

For more information on Jump Start requirements, visit the school’s website at and click on “Revised Jump Start and Reconfiguration Info” or call the school at (225) 473-2530.

C.J. Futch covers Ascension Parish schools. She can be reached at