With the start of the new East Baton Rouge Parish public school year less than two weeks away, parents and students had a chance Saturday to learn more about the school system in a festive community setting.
During the system’s inaugural Back to School Expo, a crowd of eager parents and children filled the McKinley Middle Academic Magnet School gym, taking the opportunity to speak with numerous system offices and local agencies.
“Events like this are very important tools to get people the information that they need before the start of classes on Aug. 8,” said new Superintendent of Schools Bernard Taylor.
The expo, a partnership between BREC and the school district, featured booths with health screenings, as well as information on school sites, registration, attendance policies, transportation routes, school lunch applications and nutrition information, and magnet and gifted and talented programs.
“This lets parents see what a wonderful resource we provide,” said Lynn Carmouche, system Title I content coordinator. “It connects the community and shows that education is more than what happens in the classroom.”
Area businesses and community groups participating included, among others, Capital Area United Way, Junior Achievement, Volunteers in Public Schools, local law enforcement agencies, Neighbors Federal Credit Union and the YMCA.
Paula Bradley, senior education director for Junior Achievement, said the expo gives her organization an opportunity to reach a larger audience.
“We’ve gotten to meet several parents, teachers and students who are already in our programs or would like to see our programs in their schools,” she said. “This is definitely a worthwhile event.”
The expo also featured speakers, raffles, face painting, free haircuts courtesy of Ray J’s College of Hair and free haircut coupons from Remington College.
Taylor said he came up with the expo idea after holding similar events while serving as superintendent in both Grand Rapids, Mich., and Kansas City, Mo.,
“We had park parties all the time,” he said. “This is something that I believe is an important concept. The schools in the district need to come to the community, as opposed to the community coming to the schools.”
As part of the event, those who visited at least 15 booths to have their “passport” stamped were eligible for dinner for a family of four, soft drinks or water, as well as other prizes.
Additional prizes included theater tickets, a three-month YMCA membership, museum family memberships, gift cards, as well as a Kindle Fire and bags of school supplies, courtesy of Cox Communications.
Rebekah Brumfield, whose daughter is enrolled in prekindergarten for the coming school year, said she found the event very beneficial as a new parent in the school system.
“I’m really enjoying it,” she said. “There’s so much great information here. A lot of questions that I had were answered, and I have information I can bring home and read. This helped me out a lot.”
The event coincided with the East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission’s City-Brooks Summer Showcase, which took place across the street at City-Brooks Community Park.
“We have an excellent partnership with BREC, so we figured this would be a win-win for both of us,” said Chris Trahan, spokesperson for the school district.
Taylor said he was encouraged by the large turnout for the expo.
“It’s great to see that so many people are coming out here on a weekend, with these volunteers giving their time to help families get off to a good start,” he said.
Taylor added that the district plans to hold multiple expos throughout the parish next summer.