LUTCHER — The St. James Parish School Board canceled its two remaining community meetings on the futures of Fifth Ward and Lutcher Elementary schools after officials decided last week to keep the schools open indefinitely.
The School Board originally had scheduled meetings Monday at the St. James Parish Science and Math Academy in Vacherie and on April 9 at the School Board office annex in Lutcher to discuss the possible closures.
The School Board also planned to vote during its April 23 meeting on whether to shut down the schools, but that vote also has been scrubbed, School Superintendent Alonzo Luce said.
The School Board held four public meetings, two at each of the elementary schools in question, during the past month to gauge public opinion on the schools’ futures and share with the community the reasons the two schools were targeted for closure.
Parents and community members at the meetings overwhelmingly wanted both schools to remain open.
Demographic information provided by Vanir Construction Management Inc. indicated Fifth Ward Elementary School, in St. James, and Lutcher Elementary School, in Lutcher, were the two least cost-effective schools in the parish due to their low enrollments.
The School Board hired Vanir to aid the board’s future planning by studying current and future projections of enrollment figures, population growth and industrial trends in the parish.
Fifth Ward and Lutcher Elementary schools both have seen their students and their families move to other parts of the parish to escape industrial expansion in the area.
The two schools are projected to lose even more students during the next several decades, according to Vanir.
Luce said the decision to keep the schools open was based on what the School Board heard from the community as well as what it learned from Vanir’s findings.
School Board member Patricia Schexnayder, who represents the area where Fifth Ward Elementary School is located, said during a phone interview she believes parents felt switching their children to Sixth Ward or Vacherie Elementary schools would be too far for them to commute.
“I am very happy for the community because this is a community-based school,” Schexnayder said, speaking of Fifth Ward Elementary School.