School populations largely rebounded

By Cyndi Sellers

Cameron Parish School populations have largely rebounded from the displacement of Hurricanes Laura and Delta, Supt. Charley Lemons announced at the School Board meeting Monday evening. South Cameron High School, in the worst hit area of the parish, had 196 students before the storms and has 185 today. Hackberry High School has only dropped from 225 to 221, while Johnson Bayou High School dropped from 82 to 65.

Grand Lake, the largest school in the parish, had 811 students before the storms and now has 727, with 372 in the elementary grades and 355 in grades 7-12. “We are still worried about numbers, but it’s looking up,” said Lemons. “We are excited about getting students back.”

Lemons reported that COVID-19 has not been as big an issue in Cameron Parish schools as in other places, but it is still there, very much alive. “Make no mistake,” he said, “it warrants some form of planning.” FERCA Emergency Paid Sick Leave, which was provided by the state for teachers and staff who contract COVID-19, expired on Dec. 31, but several parishes have continued it as a local policy. Cameron Parish did the same on Monday, providing up to 80 hours of extra sick leave for COVID-19 until Mar. 31. Anyone who used the FERCA leave before Dec. 31 is not eligible to use it again.

The Superintendent has been very busy dealing with hurricane recovery and repairs to the four schools. To help make sure academics do not suffer during this time, he asked the Board to assign the title of Associate Superintendent/Chief academic Officer to Supervisor Stephanie Rogers, with a $3000 raise. The work will be added to her regular duties. The Board approved the action, which will remain in place until Rogers retires.
Considering the hurricanes’ disruption and to better align with the four-year terms of board members, the Board voted to keep the same officer for the coming year. School Board officers serve a two-year term, and this would have been an election year.

Since Tom Barrett’s election as District Attorney, he is no longer able to be contracted by the School Board as Land Manager. He offered, and the Board agreed, to have the DA’s office staff continue to do the work if the Board would pay his office $24,000 a year for the extra staff. Barrett was receiving $48,000 a year under the contract. The funds would be paid to the Police Jury to be transferred to the DA’s Office payroll account. Leases for several School Board sections will be advertised for bid this month.