North Iberville School one month away from full reopening with return of K-12 classes

Staff Report

When the start of school rolls around next month, it will not only be the students who return at one parish school.

At North Iberville School, it will mark the return of K-12 classes for the first time in 14 years.

North Iberville High School will reopen in August for students in grades K-12, which had been eliminated in 2009.

While STEM classes for grades 7-12 began several years ago at the Rosedale school, traditional K-12 classes had been gone since 2009, when the Iberville Parish School Board voted to close the school.

Classes will resume in Aug. 9.

Students in those areas who were not enrolled in the North Iberville STEM Academy for grades 7-12 had two options. Some rode a bus from those areas to Plaquemine High School. Other families opted to send their children to schools in Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge parishes.

Principal Dr. Amanda Austin was at Plaquemine High before she moved to the NIS campus three years ago.

“It’s an exciting time because we’re bringing back a full community school,” said Austin, a graduate of Barbe High School in Lake Charles, and a native of Texarkana, Texas. “Not much will change with STEM, but we will be working to rebuild trust with the community and increase parental involvement.”

Aside from the STEM courses, electives will include foreign language, health and PE, band/music, gaming and medical technology.

Pathway/certification courses will include Autodesk inventor, medical assistant and drone certification (FAA Part 107).

For School Board member Pam George, who represents the area, the reopening will mark the culmination of a grass-roots effort that took shape to reopen the school.

“I’ve gotten a lot of text messages about the school,” she said. “I’m very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm.”

Aside from academics, George and other area residents are eager to see the return of the school’s athletic program.

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association requires a two-year wait period before a new or reinstituted program can compete for a district state title.

“I had two men come to see me at the Grosse Tete Town Hall, and they asked me if North Iberville was going to have a football team, and I told them that at 8 a.m. each morning they would see players on the field,” George said. “People are now saying they’ll have somewhere to go again on Friday nights.”

Ron LeJeune, a Plaquemine resident who has coached at Plaquemine and East Iberville, will serve as the school’s athletic director. He had finished the season for Plaquemine after Paul Distefano stepped down.

Joshua Gast will serve as head football coach. He was previously the offensive coordinator at Liberty High School.

The plans call for a return of high school athletics at North Iberville, but it will be a gradual transition.

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association requires 75 students for grades 9-12. The Iberville Parish School System will apply for membership during the first year reopened if enrollment exceeds 75.

A junior varsity program will likely go into place for two years before varsity athletics return.

George is optimistic that the reopening will help revive an area that has suffered from the loss of the K-12 program.

“If you look at the population from the 2020 census, Maringouin lost a lot,” she said. “I’m just excited to see the community come together again.”

It will cost approximately $1.25 million to staff North Iberville School.

Additional staffing needed for NIHS includes a full-time counselor, a librarian/media specialist, a CORE teacher, an SAT coordinator/graduation coach, one or two teachers for electives, and one middle/high school interventionist.

The additional support staff possibilities include one or two paraprofessionals, one housekeeper, one SFS technician and one bus driver.

Student interest will be considered for additional electives, Superintendent Dr. Arthur Joffrion said.

He estimated that student enrollment will hover between 90 and 106, according to projections based on NIES and STEM enrollments.

The student population has increased on that campus since the startup of the North Iberville STEM Academy in 2015.

The condition of the campus made it more feasible to reopen North Iberville, Joffrion said.

"Had we not had the Iberville STEM Academy there, we probably would not have been able to reopen, but because it already exists in the old Shady Grove High School building –where North Iberville will be housed –it makes the tradition much smoother,” he said. “The building is in great shape, and because the STEM academy numbers increased, and we had to refurbish other parts of the building.”

Iberville STEM Academy will continue to be open to students in grades 7-12 across the district, but students must maintain a 2.5 GPA and a good exemplary record.

Students from the northern part of the parish who were enrolled in classes at Plaquemine High last year will have the option to continue at that campus until their graduation.

All incoming seventh graders must enroll at North Iberville.