Ascension schools hold first day of classes Friday

Aaron E. Looney
Students exit a school bus before the first day of classes at Donaldsonville Primary School Friday morning.

As students headed to school for the first day of classes in Ascension Parish public schools Friday, turbulent weather caused system officials to scramble in the early hours to fix power issues at some campuses.

Those problems were rectified by mid-morning, leaving students across the parish ready to learn.

Schools opened to an estimated first-day enrollment of 17,062 students, system public information officer Johnnie Balfantz said Friday afternoon. He said the number was 150 students fewer than last year's opening-day enrollment.

"That was just a first-day estimate," Balfantz said. "We're expecting a significant increase starting Monday."

Last year, the system had a maximum enrollment of 18,807 students and ended its school year with 18,656 students, Balfantz said.

Recent large enrollment figures have forced the School Board to use temporary classrooms at almost all of its schools, and has its two newest schools opening at or near their desired capacity.

Director of Maintenance Jeff Parent said Friday that strong storms knocked out power to Donaldsonville High School, Dutchtown High School and Lowery Intermediate and Elementary schools prior to the start of classes.

"Those storms were pretty bad," Parent said. "A main transformer blew in Donaldsonville that knocked out power to a lot of bigger buildings along Hwy. 1, including our schools there."

The day also marked the opening of two new primary schools, Pecan Grove Primary School in Gonzales and Prairieville Primary School in Hobart. The schools were built with funds from a $69 million tax plan passed by parish voters in 2005 to help ease overcrowding.

Three additional schools funded by the tax will open in the next two years, with another covered by dollars from the system's fund balance to open as well.

Students await to enter their classrooms on the first day of school.