Parents and students expressed concerns about post-Hurricane Ida schooling in Terrebonne Parish during a town hall gathering last week.
More than 50 parents, teachers, students, bus drivers and other residents attended a town hall meeting Thursday night hosted by School Board members MayBelle Trahan and Dane Voisin.
The meeting, at the St. Anne Community Center in Bourg, was meant to solicit input about how school is going, especially in the parish’s hardest-hit southern reaches. The Category 4 storm, which hit Aug. 29, destroyed or damaged many of the system’s buildings and prompted changes in scheduling and other procedures.
Concerns brought up included overcrowding at schools sharing facilities, 36-minute-long daily classes, transportation issues and conflicts with extracurricular activities.
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Among changes, Ellender High students are attending classes in the afternoons at Terrebonne High. South Terrebonne students are doing the same at H.L. Bourgeois High.
South Terrebonne senior Carley Pinel voiced her frustration that the daily schedule isn’t conducive to learning for her and her classmates. She said sports and other after-school activities lead to some teachers and students leaving early.
“We can’t participate and keep our grades up and do these sports. So how do you expect us to get into other things like our future and college?” Pinel said. “I personally want to go to college.”
Voisin said he and other School Board members, at their next meeting, will propose a split schedule for high schools, with live online learning every other day. If passed, they hope to implement the plan starting in January.
“This current schedule is not working for any of our teachers and students. Thirty-six minutes (per class) is not effective,” Voisin said. “The extended time students spend on buses, late drop-off have students walking long distances. There are safety issues.”
Voisin and Trahan urged residents to voice their concerns during committee meetings that begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the School Board office, 201 Stadium Drive.
But some parents said they were frustrated by the invitation because students and teachers would still be trying to finish up school during that time.
Parents at Upper Little Caillou Elementary also expressed concerns for their children’s learning with the split school system.
Upper Little Caillou Elementary’s pre-kindergarten- through first-grade students are at Village East Elementary. Second through fourth grades go to Montegut Elementary.
Others expressed concern about a proposal to move the students to East Houma School.
“East Houma has been closed for years for safety reasons. There’s peeling paint, things like that. We want to know these issues have been resolved,” said parent Tabitha Pellegrin. “There’s also no whiteboards or chalkboards in the school. We’d like to know when we would get things. There is no security for bathrooms and recess as well.”
Parents said they also want their children to stay closer down the bayou to their homes for school.
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Upper Little Caillou third-grade math teacher Dalton Sanford discussed the importance of having a separate space to accommodate students in each class. Sanford brought up his experience teaching between collapsible folding walls in the school cafeteria.
“These are some disruptions that occurred during my test that was given to my third block of math, which includes multiple special ed students,” Sanford said. “I have one of my primary teachers also teaching on the other side of the wall. There were three teachers that came in trying to make their copies trying to get their lives together or having a conversation trying to plan. We had kids crying in the nurse’s station. Of course there were classes transitioning from both schools.”
Another parent, Dominique Naquin, said she feels the younger children were forgotten with no solution proposed. She also is concerned about the proposed move to East Houma School.
“We agree it would be great for all the students to be under one roof again; however, parents have some serious concerns about this plan that have not been addressed yet. We know that the school had safety concerns before it was shut down, so we want to know what measures will be in place to keep them safe now,” Naquin said.
“Also transportation is a huge issue and lots of people are worried that moving the kids further away will cause more issues. Some of these young kids are on buses for two hours in the morning and at night. They are having accidents on the bus. They are also completely exhausted from all the traveling. Unfortunately, the meeting ended with no resolution for our kids.”
Parent Lauren White is against the proposal to move kids to East Houma. She’d rather see the board reopen Pointe-aux-Chenes Elementary, which was closed in June.
“We should fix Pointe-aux-Chenes and use it,” White said. “It’s been shut down for less time and it’ll keep kids closer.”