The nine schools in the greater Baton Rouge area managed by the state-run Recovery School District have collectively lost more than 850 students compared with a year ago, according to preliminary enrollment numbers.
Istrouma High and Crestworth Middle, two Baton Rouge schools that have undergone the biggest changes in the past year, suffered the biggest enrollment declines, 289 and 197 students respectively.
Istrouma High was run during the 2011-12 school year by the East Baton Rouge Parish school system. It was taken over last summer after Louisiana Department of Education officials decided that the low-performing high school was not making improvements at a fast enough pace.
Meanwhile, Crestworth Middle School also was under different management last year, a charter school group connected to Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. The charter school group, after three years in control, handed the school back to the state with unpaid bills and a facility in disrepair.
Consequently, Crestworth’s 166 students — it had 363 in 2011-12 — have spent the past two months 4½ miles away at another RSD-run school, Glen Oaks Middle School.
Glen Oaks Middle, likewise has fewer students, 215, compared with 287 year ago. Crestworth students are scheduled to return home to their Scotlandville campus on Oct. 22.
The RSD schools were at one time low-performing neighborhood schools run by local school districts.
Istrouma, by far, has suffered the greatest enrollment loss of all the RSD-run schools in the area. During 2011-12, Istrouma had 669 students; this year, the school has 380.
Also, last school year, the Istrouma campus housed a separate, independent high school, EBR Lab Academy, which enrolled 228 students but was closed soon after the state takeover was announced.
The space EBR Lab occupied at Istrouma is now filled with students from nearby Prescott Middle, which saw its enrollment drop as well, from 262 to 240 students. The old Prescott campus at 4055 Prescott Road now sits empty, except for some RSD administrative offices.
Robert Webb, who took over as principal of Istrouma High in April and is a graduate of the high school, said he’s not surprised by the decline.
Webb said some parents who were uncertain about Istrouma’s future opted instead for other public high schools in Baton Rouge, particularly Belaire High, and Webb said he understands.
The collective enrollment for the nine RSD schools in the greater Baton Rouge area decreased from 3,392 on Oct. 1, 2011, to 2,539 on Oct. 1 this year. That’s a decline of 853 students.
The latest Oct. 1 numbers, however, are unaudited. Official public school enrollment numbers will not be released until later this year.
The state takes official enrollment snapshots of all public schools on Oct. 1 and Feb. 1 of every school year. The numbers drive state education funding, $8,733 per student in Baton Rouge, during 2012-13.
The state released the unaudited Oct. 1 numbers Friday in response to a request made Oct. 4 by The Advocate.
Earlier in the month, the East Baton Rouge Parish released its unaudited Oct. 1 numbers, showing 42,690 students at 83 campuses. That’s 613 fewer students than the district had enrolled Oct. 1, 2011.
The only RSD-affiliated school that the RSD did not release Oct. 1 enrollment numbers for was Kenilworth Science and Technology School, a middle school in south Baton Rouge that is run as a charter school. That school had 479 students in 2011-12.
The nine schools that RSD released enrollment numbers for are run by state employees. A year ago, Capitol High in Baton Rouge and St. Helena Middle in Greensburg, were run by state employees.
Capitol High is the only one of the nine to actually gain students, 14, while St. Helena lost 32 students.
Five of the nine schools that RSD runs now were charter schools operated by the now defunct nonprofit group, Advance Baton Rouge. Unsatisfied with those schools’ academic progress, the RSD, took those five schools over during the latter half of the 2011-12 school year, replacing much of the faculty.
All five lost students, ranging from 22 students at Prescott Middle to 130 at Dalton Elementary. Four of the five schools are in Baton Rouge. Pointe Coupee Central, which lost 63, students, is in Morganza.
RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard has said that RSD will not run most of these schools for long.
The plan is to find well-regarded charter management groups to take over at least seven schools as early as next summer so that collectively they form a new Achievement Zone in north Baton Rouge. The state is reviewing charter applications and will make a decision by December. Dobard said the state will wait longer if it fails to find a quality operator for a school on the first try.
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