Livingston Parish students return to class; some go back to their school for first time since flood

Denham Springs high to re-open; Livingston students back to class on Thursday

DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - While some students typically dread school, there are some who may actually be eager for a return to class, as it marks a tiny return to normal for dozens of teens and kids in Livingston Parish.

Students at Southside Junior High school will be going to a temporary campus. The classrooms are in mobile housing units. Teachers and school officials said more than anything, everyone just wants to be back on a normal schedule.

Katie Hood is doing what she usually does the day before her students return from winter break, which is organizing her classroom and preparing her lesson plan. However, Thursday is extra special for the English teacher at Denham Springs High School. Her students will be back on the campus that was heavily damaged in the August flood.

"It's nice to have our classroom, that I can hang my students' stuff on the walls," Hood said. "We're not just sharing a space with someone else. This is our space that we can turn into our classroom. It'll help them connect with the curriculum more."

The school flooded one week into the fall semester. The 1,600 students have been sharing the campus at Live Oak High School in Watson. They started class in the afternoon and finished by dinner time.

Principal Kelly Jones said the change in schedule was hard for teachers and students, especially when their families were trying to rebuild their homes.

"We pride ourselves on being an escape," Jones said. "If there's anything going on at home, that maybe is tough on students or tough on teachers. They can get away from that and come to school and get a release from that. And, as it was, they didn't have any relief. Things were rough at home. Things were rough at school."

But now, most of the 90 classrooms are ready for use. All of the furniture, desks and computers have been replaced. The classrooms are not fully repaired, but school officials said they've got what they need to operate.

"No base boards down. There will be some classrooms without paint on the wall where we've replaced sheet rock. But the basic necessities to have class, to have school are going to be there," Jones explained.

Meanwhile, Southside Junior High students will start the new year at a temporary campus behind Juban Parc Junior High. Nine units, which are connected by wooden walkways, contain a cafeteria, multi-purpose room and classrooms.

The old Southside campus is still being repaired, but Principal Wes Partin said students needed to get back to a regular schedule. They've been sharing Juban Parc's classrooms since the flood.

"There's an excitement to get back to a normal schedule, to have their own school to go to," Partin said. "Being a Southside Buccaneer, being able to come in every day and know this is your school, even though this is a temporary situation. For them, I think there's an excitement to that."

Partin said an assessment will be done on the old campus this spring, to determine if the school can be fully repaired or if they have to build a new school at a different location.

Denham Springs Freshman High and Southside Elementary will reopen Thursday as well.

The only school in Livingston Parish where students aren't at their original campus or on a temporary campus is Denham Springs Elementary. Students are still sharing space with three other schools.

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