School still under threat of takeover
It is in some ways the most ordinary of stories. Parents volunteered their time Wednesday to help fix up a school in need of a little love, in this case the new, still small Mayfair Lab School.
What makes the cleanup Wednesday at this Baton Rouge public school of just 170 students different is it could be for nought.
The Louisiana Department of Education has twice rejected East Baton Rouge Parish school system’s requests to embrace the changes at Mayfair, as well as Delmont Elementary in north Baton Rouge. That means the state continues to treat Mayfair as it was the last four years, an F-rated neighborhood middle school, and therefore eligible for state takeover, a takeover that would end the new Mayfair Lab after just one year in operation.
If the state and the school system can’t reach a resolution soon, the issue may end up in court.
Robin Mangum led up the work Wednesday, persuading her company, Ritter Maher Architects and several other businesses, to donate time and supplies. The volunteers spent the day at the 9880 Hyacinth Ave. campus, planting crape myrtles at the school’s entrance, laying mulch around the base of other trees, as well as repainting and remodeling the teacher’s lounge.
The school system fixed up the campus some over the summer, converting it from a middle school, which it had been for four years, back into an elementary school, which it was from 1962 when the school was built until 2004 when the elementary school was closed.
“The faculty and the staff and the progress here are all great,” Mangum said. “It’s just the aesthetics were a little lacking.”
Wednesday was also the 12th anniversary of the terrorist of attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. For many, the day has become a day of service. That’s the reason Ritter Maher chose to come out to Mayfair on Wednesday.
In a similar vein, the school’s 20 third-graders gathered in a room to sign a banner that they donated to a local fire department. As this was occurring, the students watched a video with a series of somber images from that tragic day. At one point, one girl ran out of the room crying.
“It’s kind of emotional,” said Principal Christa Bordelon said. “We’re only going to show it to our older kids.”
Robin Mangum and her husband, Brent, enrolled their oldest child in the third grade in early August, just before the school year started. Mayfair Lab, which is modeled after the better known LSU Lab School, had planned to stop at second grade initially and add a grade one year at a time until finishing at eighth grade.
But, in a bid to overcome state resistance to the new Mayfair Lab, the school system moved up that timetable by adding one section of third grade. One objection of the state was that by stopping at second grade, Mayfair would not have students who took standardized tests so it would not have the material. With a third grade, the school has a tested grade with which to generate a school performance score.
The Mangums had previously had their oldest child at Dufrocq Elementary, and said they were happy there, but they decided to take a chance on the new school near their house. They say they haven’t regretted the choice.
That story was echoed by the other parents Wednesday.
Hilary Renshaw had applied to get into a magnet school in Baton Rouge 18 months ago without luck. Magnet schools are selective schools that offer specialized programming to attract a diverse set of students. Mayfair Lab requires that new students be on grade level to enroll.
Renshaw said her son, who is in the first grade, quickly adapted to the change.
“He loves it here,” she said. “He’s always talking about how kind his teachers are.”
Renshaw decided the new school need a parent-teacher organization. At the school open house, she persuaded about 60 other parents to join the new organization and she became its first president.
Renshaw said she’s gearing up for a potential fight with the state to keep the school as it is. She said she wants state educators to come and see the school and hear about the pleased experiences of parents like her.
“We want to be advocates for the school,” she said.