More kids are back in Calcasieu classrooms as enrollment rises post-hurricanes

Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 5:53 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Student enrollment is up in Calcasieu Parish for the second year in a row.

“I’m all for the growth,” Randa Sumrall said.

One of Sumrall’s children is a fifth-grader at St. John Elementary in Lake Charles. Although she’s optimistic, she said she does have some concerns about bigger student populations.

“Honestly I hope that they don’t get lost in the school system, and I feel with all the kids that some of them might get lost in the school system,” she said.

Calcasieu Parish Superintendent Shannon LaFargue said it’s a concern he understands.

“It’s a natural tendency to think that my child’s going to get lost in the shuffle because of the large number of students,” LaFargue said. “But no, it’s just more opportunities are provided to the students to be a part of the band, be a part of football teams, all the clubs, all of the non-profits that we have who engage with the schooling environment. It’s kind of difficult to get lost in our school system.”

LaFargue told 7News the parish lost over 5,000 students after the 2020 hurricanes from their 30,182 enrolled in February 2020. Recent gains are only showing a growth of about 2,000 since then.

“As long as no more hurricanes come, I’m sure everyone will come back this way,” Sumrall said.

In the year after the hurricanes enrollment sat at 25,400 for August 2021. Now two years later in August 2023, enrollment of students is at 27,000.

The school that saw the most growth this year is Barbe High School, adding 133 more kids to its halls.

LaFargue said even with the growth in student population at Barbe, they aren’t pushing capacity. However, down the line plans for expansion could be a possibility.

“We have a long-range planning committee where we start those discussions,” he said. “Those are positive discussions for us to have and we’re going so much we might need to improve the school, to build a new school, to expand the school. all of those things are on the table when you talk about an increase in population.”

The parish schools with the biggest growth this year are Sulphur High School (+60), Nelson Elementary (+54), Combre-Fondel Elementary (+51), St. John Elementary (+49) and Westlake High School (+48).

LaFargue said these numbers are a good indicator that families are moving back to the area post-hurricanes, and he expects enrollment to continue to grow in the coming years.