LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The idea of a local homeschool started as a joke between two Sulphur High School teachers, Andrea McFarlain and Jessica Beddoe.
“Jessie and I were texting, trying to figure out what to do with our own kids,” McFarlain said. “So Jessie jokingly says ‘Oh maybe we can just kind of combine and teach them ourselves. We can get some other teachers involved and we’ll just teach our own kids,’ and from there, it exploded."
The community’s response was overwhelming. People donated supplies, food and teachers volunteered.
On Monday, the doors of KC Hall in Sulphur opened to nearly 400 students in grades K-12.
“The kids were starving for this,” McFarlain said. “The parents were worried about their kid’s education, and we saw that. We’ve had our focus on so many things lately, education is still a priority."
For four days a week, students learn subjects such as English, math, Spanish, art or whatever the teachers feel is necessary.
“We’re not requiring a certain curriculum,” McFarlain said. “We’re trusting the teachers.”
Teachers who volunteered work at CPSB schools, and they teach because they love their kids, volunteering for free.
“This shows you teachers want to teach," McFarlain said. "We want to do it. No one is getting paid. The only money that comes in is $10 a week, that goes to the Knights of Columbus to pay for the building.”
On Mondays and Wednesdays, they teach grades K-6. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, grades 7-12 attend class.
Beddoe said she was surprised to see the amount of older kids attending. Over a hundred high school kids signed up, 41 of them are seniors.
“They are here, and they are wanting to learn,” Beddoe said. “They are wanting to get ACT prep and things that they know is important for them in this coming year. This is now no longer about your mom and dad doing this for you, this is you. This is your life, you have to make choices for it.”
Abby Bonilla, 17, is a Sulphur High senior who wants to be a teacher, and she’s been helping out during her free time.
“After the hurricane, it’s been really hard [for me], because I love school,” Bonilla said. “Being in this environment, it makes me feel good that I know that I’m helping everybody in order to help the teachers. I know that I love the teachers, and if I can show the students that, maybe they will [love the teachers] when they grow up.”
Kindergarteners Greer, Aubrianna, Korie and Jerry learned numbers.
“Helps me how to read and write my numbers,” Korie said.
“I write number two and number five and number three,″ Jerry said.
When asked how happy he is, Greer shouted “Love!”
Beddoe said she was emotional on the first day of school, considering the circumstance the community is in after Hurricane Laura and amid a pandemic.
“We do it because we genuinely love to be around these kids," Beddoe said. "We love to see that little light go off in them, We love to see their excitement when they learn something new. They’re adapting. That’s part of life, and I love that they’re okay.”
Parents and grandparents appreciate the three-hour window they get, so they can clean up after Hurricane Laura and catch up with their kids at the end of the day.
“It’s a break for our parents to get relief to do what they need to do,” Sheri Landry, 50, said. “Meeting with insurance adjusters, doing that cleanup that [kids] can’t be involved in. It’s an escape for the children and parents and in the meantime, we’re gaining an education.”
Landry’s grandson is from Lake Charles who relocated to Sulphur because of damages.
"He knew no one going into the school year and he said he had the best day ever and has already made friends before going to his real school.”
Kailyn, 8, said it felt good to be back at school.
“I had the exact same teacher for second grade, and I love how she teaches. It’s just a very good opportunity to have here.”
McFarlain said on Wednesday they have over 100 people already on the waiting list. They plan to take in more kids as schools reopen in Southwest Louisiana and spots open back up.