According to recent figures, the number of Louisiana public school students continues to increase, albeit at a slow pace.
Figures from the Louisiana Department of Education show that this fall, Louisiana public K-12 school enrollment rose to 713,104 students from 707,431 the year before, with numbers generally increasing across the greater New Orleans and Baton Rouge metropolitan areas. In a 4.5% increase from 2012, New Orleans schools continued their steady climb, to a student population of almost 44,700. Additionally, since Hurricane Katrina sent families scattering, city enrollment has increased every year.
One reason for the increase is that more students are staying in school, according to Education Department spokesman Barry Landry.
"Our dropout rate is decreasing," he said, which led in 2013 to the state's all-time highest graduation rate of 72%.
St. Bernard Parish schools in greater New Orleans saw the biggest jump from October 2012 to 2013: 6.5%, for a total of more than 7,100 students. A 3% increase was posted by Jefferson Parish, the area's largest system overall with more than 47,500 students. Plaquemines Parish enrollment rose slightly, to 5,000. In St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parish schools, students' counts were all but flat. East Baton Rouge in the capitol region is by far the largest system with more than 47,000 students, essentially the same number as 2012. Following with about 25,000 students was Livingston Parish schools. With a 2% increase, Ascension Parish had more than 21,300 students.
As Danielle Dreilinger of Nola.com reports, though now back to its usual post-Katrina growth rate in the 5% range, New Orleans school growth slowed from 2011 to 2012. However, this calls into question whether administrators need to rethink the parish schools facilities master plan, which calls for 86 campuses to accommodate about 46,200 students in 2016 and almost 50,000 in 2020 in the latest major amendment. In 2020, enrollment will be nearly 56,000 students according to demographic projections estimates released by GCR consulting last year. Additionally, according to GCR, in 2000, New Orleans schools educated more than 78,000 students, though the city had lost 15% of its enrollment by the year before Katrina.
With more students in elementary classrooms in the fall, Orleans Parish School Board data noted a seeming baby boom in the city's schools. This has led to more kindergartens compared to the year before. At the same time, New Orleans schools grew slightly less poor. There was a five-point drop in the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, long used as a measure of poverty.
With more than 1,700 students in kindergarten through 12th grades, Lusher in Uptown continues to be the city's largest school. Algiers' newly merged Landry Walker high school follows it closely though its 1,174-student enrollment was about 200 students lower than the schools educated separately. Also in Algiers, Edna Karr High School grew by almost 7% and had the city's third-highest enrollment, at 1,044.
Growing by more than 25% without adding grades, New Orleans schools included: ReNEW Schaumburg in eastern New Orleans, which became a charter school; Langston Hughes Academy in Gentilly; Crescent Leadership Academy in eastern New Orleans, an alternative school serving mostly expelled students; and McDonogh 32 and Dwight D. Eisenhower in Algiers.