First day of classes ‘normal’ for Iberville Parish schools
After two years of staggered enrollments and late starts, the opening of the 2022-23 school year brought a different feel across Iberville Parish.
The opening day of classes Aug. 9 brought a sense of normalcy not seen on campuses since 2019, six months before the COVID-19 changed life throughout America and across the world.
It was a welcome relief for Iberville Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Arthur Joffrion and school employees across the parish.
Openings at schools in Iberville Parish went without a hitch, Joffrion said.
“We had a great opening,” Joffrion said. "Everything went very smooth, and all our schools were very well prepared.”
The school system took steps to ensure a return to normalcy for the first day of classes.
The school system held four professional development days before school began. In addition, an opening convocation ceremony was held Aug. 4 at the Carl F. Grant Civic Center for the 900-plus teachers in the parish.
At East Iberville Elementary in St. Gabriel, where a population growth continues, approximately 220 students from grades K-6 arrived for class on opening day.
“Our motto was 'growth,' and we have a lot of new staff who have acclimated themselves to the community, children, the parents and the material they’re teaching,” principal April Thibodeaux said.
While the worst part of the pandemic seems to be in the rearview mirror, other issues loom for East Iberville and other schools, she said.
“We’ve recovered and are past the COVID restrictions, but the biggest challenge is rebuilding parental involvement,” Thibodeaux said. “A lot of parents have been leery about coming to school because of restrictions.
“But now that schools are open, we want parents to know we’re open, and they’re welcome to come on campus and encouraged to attend events. We don’t want parental involvement to be a challenge this year.”
Some students have not been on a school campus in 1 ½ years.
For some of those students, walking onto a busy campus is a new part of the school day.
“We want to make that transition smooth,” Joffrion said. “Unfortunately, we’re still dealing not only with learning gaps, but the social and emotional regulation because students haven’t been around one another and haven’t had an opportunity to socialize because of contact restrictions and quarantines.
“We’re trying different programs in school and afterschool to close in the socialization and learning gaps kids endured during the two years. For a lot of kids this is the first time they’ve been able to interact with fellow students because of the remote learning, so we’re doing all we can to help them find their way socially.”