Calcasieu enrollment up; LaGrange sees largest increase

Enrollment has increased in Calcasieu Parish schools for the fourth straight year, with LaGrange High experiencing the most growth, school system officials said.

Spokeswoman Holly Holland said nine schools in the parish reported an enrollment increase of more than 350 students.

LaGrange reported an increase of 110 students, Washington-Marion High, 78; Barbe High and Prien Lake Elementary, both 73; Sam Houston High, 66; Molo Middle, 62; S.J. Welsh Middle, 55; Moss Bluff Middle, 48; and F.K. White Middle, 46.

Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus told the American Press that he attributes the growth at LaGrange to its Freshman Academy and University Program offerings.

“Both of these programs have become drawing cards for LaGrange and are a large reason they are experiencing growth,” Bruchhaus said.

He said the Freshman Academy program “provides ninth-grade students the opportunity to adjust to high school in their own ‘school-within-a-school’ environment,” he said. “These students are generally separated from the rest of the student body most of the day.”

Bruchhaus said LaGrange’s University Program accepts students based on their academic achievement and allows them to take advanced classes.

“If they fully engage in the program with the courses offered, they have the opportunity to earn 50-plus college credit hours by graduation,” he said.

Holland said that because of the parish’s continued growth 558 temporary buildings, called pods, are being constructed for extra classroom space. She said the pods are being funded with riverboat money.

Bruchhaus said the pods can hold two, four, six, eight and 16 classrooms. The 16-classroom pods are two stories.

“The number of students in each classroom can vary depending on what grade level the pod houses,” he said. “Lower elementary classrooms typically house 18-20 students, while high school classes can have 28-30 students.”

Bruchhaus said 430 classrooms have been built so far and that 128 are under construction.

Shannon LaFargue, school system chief operating officer, said that even with the student enrollment growth district officials remain confident “all of our students are receiving quality instruction with certified teachers and teachers who are working toward certification.”

LaFargue said that while Calcasieu Parish isn’t experiencing the severe teacher shortage seen in other regions of the state and country, the district continues to pursue the goal of having a certified teacher in every classroom.

“We currently have between 8 and 10 percent of teachers who are not certified,” he said “However, a significant amount of those teachers are actively pursuing certification through alternative certification programs.”

LaFargue said more than 400 people attended a May job fair hosted by the school system. “Though the region houses a competitive job market, our tenacious teacher recruitment has paid dividends,” he said.””

Lynn Hamilton, principal of Cypress Cove Elementary, talks with students prior to dismissal on the first day of school in Carlyss. (Kirk Meche / Special to the American Press)

Kirk Meche

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