Livingston officials expected big jump
By Heidi R. Kinchen
Florida Parishes bureau
August 11, 2012
WATSON — Enrollment in Livingston Parish schools topped the 25,000 mark Thursday when the parish saw an influx of more than 575 new students.
The parish has gained an average of 415 students per year during the past 15 years, but school officials could tell the increase was going to be “unusually high” this year based on the number of phone calls they received about registration, Superintendent Bill Spear said.
The number of students enrolled Thursday was 25,361, up 579 from last year’s 24,782, Spear said.
Tangipahoa Parish schools also saw an increase in first-day enrollment, from 18,927 last year to 19,113 this year not including kindergartners, who start school a week later, Assistant Superintendent Thomas Bellavia said.
Enrollment numbers tend to fluctuate during the first week or so of classes as students who have withdrawn are removed from the rolls and late registrations are added, administrators for both school districts said.
Teachers and principals will send in “head-count” totals based on the number of students actually attending class starting early next week, they said.
The continual influx of students in Livingston Parish has required the district to expand and build anew in several areas, including Denham Springs, where two expansion projects were completed and dedicated Wednesday, and Watson, where construction at the new Live Oak High School is ongoing.
A delayed construction schedule, due mostly to a major copper theft in January and wet weather, kept the 211,255-square-foot Live Oak facility from opening for the start of school. But officials are hopeful the new campus will open at midsemester, possibly in early October, School Board member Kellee Hennessee Dickerson said.
At nearby South Live Oak Elementary School, first- through fifth-graders hopped off buses and out of parents’ cars Thursday morning to be greeted by Principal Amy Savage and her staff.
Savage, as many of her colleagues, experienced the first day of school from two different perspectives — as an educator and as a parent.
Preparing her twin second-graders, Baylee and Brayden, 7, for school while also preparing the school for an estimated 561 students was nerve-wracking, Savage said.
“They don’t see me as the principal; they see me as mom. So it can be hard to get them going in the morning, saying ‘Mommy has to go be the principal now,’” she said, laughing. “I don’t think they understand exactly what my job entails.”
Baylee Savage was eager to begin school so she could see her friends again, while brother Brayden felt the summer passed a little too quickly, Amy Savage said. Both were off to a good start Thursday morning, she said.
When the doors officially opened at 7:55 a.m., parents with cameras poured down hallways to escort their children to classrooms where teachers waited with name tags and the day’s lessons ready to go.
“I think we get more nervous than the kids do,” first-grade teacher Ashley Patin said.
Several kindergarten teachers dropped by the first-grade classrooms to welcome their former students.
Of the 21 first-graders in her class Thursday, teacher Lindsay Prejean said five are new to the school this year.