This year Lee High School will open the doors to a new $54 million dollar facility. In 2012 Baton Rouge High School was renovated at a cost of $56 million dollars. Both magnet schools with a more diverse student body population than most public high schools in Baton Rouge. Later this year Istrouma High School is set to reopen after being closed the past few years and being taken over by the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD).
Istrouma High a mostly African American school in north Baton Rouge will receive $15 million to ready the school to open for students. Based on the math, one would believe that Istrouma High doesn’t mean as much to our school system or the BESE board as Lee or Baton Rouge High Schools. The irony is that a school like Istrouma should be getting the most resources, because it has the biggest hurdles to climb in the coming years.
Some will say why invest that type of money in a school that failed? The answer is, maybe we haven’t invested enough in the schools in that area. If we continue to give the schools in the most troubled neighborhoods in our parish the least amount of resources, how exactly is it that we expect to see those schools produce on the level that a Baton Rouge High or Lee High School does.
Lee High is an example of investment. Just 10 years ago Lee High was in the same condition as many of the schools in north Baton Rouge. Now that Lee High is receiving the level of investment that it is, it’s a magnet school. So maybe Istrouma High School needs to be labeled as a magnet school as well, so that the same level of financial investment can be made.
Baton Rouge doesn’t have a performing arts high school. That could be the plan for Istrouma High School. The integration of arts and academics offers students a great opportunity to succeed in post-secondary education. Studies show that there is a correlation between art and other achievement. A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.
Currently our school system isn’t trying out this angle. We have enough “STEM” programs at other schools around the parish. I believe introducing a performing arts school would allow the community to have a reason to send their talented kids to a school in north Baton Rouge that needs bright leaders.
Maybe if we tried to get creative we could find some level of success at a school in one of the most jeopardous neighborhoods in Baton Rouge. Both of the high schools that serve the “bloodiest blocks of Baton Rouge”, Capitol High and Istrouma, were taken over by the RSD with little improvement. Capitol High School is operating under a charter as Friendship Capitol High and is still a failing school. It’s time that both of these schools are given the level of investment needed to be as successful as some of the other schools around the parish.
We can’t simply expect that by making a small $15 million dollar investment and trying nothing new that this school will turn around. Especially when our school system has invested over $100 million in schools in the southern portion of the parish. Not to mention Lee High is named after a racist confederate general, Robert E. Lee. – $54 million dollars to honor a man that believed it was in the best interest of blacks to be slaves.
It’s time to break the old mold and create a new one. The school system and the state are currently saying that schools that need the most resources simply aren’t worth it. You can’t say that the success of Istrouma High is important and you don’t put your money where your mouth is.
January 19, 2016