Two elementary schools to close soon in St. James Parish

— Two St. James Parish elementary schools, one on the West bank and one on the East bank of the Mississippi River, have been selected to close over the next few years after a study commissioned by the School Board revealed dwindling enrollment and a projected shift in residential population from those areas.

Fifth Ward Elementary School, in St. James, and Lutcher Elementary School, in Lutcher, had only 182 and 183 prekindergarten through sixth-grade students enrolled, respectively, in 2012, according to a study provided by the superintendent’s office Tuesday.

In comparison, the study showed in 2012 there were 464 prekindergarten through sixth-grade students enrolled at Gramercy Elementary School, 649 students enrolled at Paulina Elementary School, 322 students enrolled at Sixth Ward Elementary School and 340 students enrolled at Vacherie Elementary School.

Fifth Ward and Lutcher elementary schools are also projected to have the fewest number of enrolled students over the next 20 years, the study said.

The study, conducted by Geographic Planning & Demographic Services LLC., of Duson, examined projected student enrollment over the next 20 years as a way to plan future facilities in the parish.

The parish’s industrial growth also has affected changes in residential population.

“The potential for industrial expansion on the west side of the Mississippi River between the Ascension Parish line and the Fifth Ward area will probably have a long term detrimental effect on the residents living in that area now,” the study states.

Many of these families would relocate to Sixth Ward or the Vacherie areas, according to the study.

Luce said the study would be made available to the public on the school district’s website.

An informational public meeting was held prior to the School Board meeting Tuesday at Lutcher Elementary School. St. James Parish Superintendent Alonzo Luce said there will be another public meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Fifth Ward Elementary School.

The School Board initially discussed the closure of Fifth Ward and Lutcher Elementary schools during its annual retreat in January, officials said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the School Board opted to table discussion of new school district lines for Sixth Ward and Vacherie until more public meetings on the school closures can be held.

During the past two years, the School Board also has closed Romeville Elementary and Vacherie Primary schools due to declining population and looming industrial growth in the area.

The School Board also is working to relocate St. James High School, on the West bank located near the Fifth Ward, to the Sixth Ward due to expanding industrial growth near the school’s current location.