HOUMA — More students enrolled in Terrebonne and Lafourche schools this year than last year, halting several years of steady decline.
Terrebonne Parish public schools counted 19,301 students on the first day of class, up 381 from last year.
In neighboring Lafourche Parish, 14,608 students enrolled, up 111 from last year.
Terrebonne Superintendent Philip Martin said he’s glad to see enrollment growing, though he cautioned against reading too much into the numbers.
“One year doesn’t make a trend,” Martin said. “But we’re absolutely glad to see the number going up. I think it reflects a growing population in the parish, and it’s a healthy indicator.”
Two trends are clear in Terrebonne’s enrollment figures, Martin said. First, the exodus from more southern schools northward appears to have reversed.
“It appears some people seem to be moving back down into the bayou,” Martin said.
Second, the population growth is driven mostly by surging enrollment in the lower grades, especially in the district’s fledgling pre-kindergarten program.
Ray Bernard, Lafourche child welfare and attendance supervisor, said much of the rise in his school system’s numbers was driven by growth at Bayou Community Academy, the charter school that operates with the blessing of the School Board but is free from many public school restrictions.
Bayou Community Academy added fifth grade and pre-kindergarten classes this year, growing enrollment from 231 to 305.
Bernard also said school populations continue to shift northward. Schools in south Lafourche are shrinking, while already crowded schools in the Chackbay and Bayou Blue areas continue to grow.
Bernard also cautioned against reading any sweeping trends in the numbers.