Why Istrouma Is So Important to Parish
East Baton Rouge Parish is hurting right now. More than 50,000 people have lost their homes and are struggling to rebuild.
Nowhere are the problems more severe than in North Baton Rouge in the area bounded on the south by Florida Boulevard, on the west by Scenic Highway, and on the north and east by the Airline Highway. The flooding hit parts of this area hard, and it was already suffering from massive blight and a severe crime problem.
At its core, North Baton Rouge lacks the sense of community that is essential to developing pride, standards, and a vision for the future.
There is one proven way to develop a sense of community — a feeling that everyone belongs and that we are all in this together. That is to have a great public school that everyone takes pride in and feels a part of.
Once there was a great public school in North Baton Rouge — Istrouma High School, which was the largest public school in Louisiana and a model of academic and athletic success.
But, over the years, Istrouma was allowed to decline and with it the community around it. Istrouma had become a failure, and the State of Louisiana took it over. Yet, state operation of the school was a failure too. Then nearly three years ago, the state closed Istrouma’s doors and the hallowed halls went quiet and dark, most thought forever.
For the past three years, there has been no public high school between Scotlandville on the north and Baton Rouge High on the south.
The once-proud Istrouma area, long filled with modest but well-kept homes, declined even further. Today drug dealers ply their trade. Prostitutes walk Plank Road. North Baton Rouge is in the news again — not for championship football teams as in years past — but for murder and decay.
Then the flood came.
Now, six months later, the cleanup has not come.
Something has to happen.
Now, something is happening!
Istrouma High School is undergoing a $22 million renovation. It will open again on August 9 — just in time for the school’s 100th anniversary.
Now there is a plan, a plan that if successful can completely turn around the fate of North Baton Rouge! The plan is for Istrouma High to be the hub of the North Baton Rouge community — a place of learning and the center of activity for the entire community.
Istrouma will be a state-of-the-art facility where each classroom and every student is armed with the latest technology. The academic program will be outstanding. The technology institute will be spectacular!
Students — white and black — will come to Istrouma from across the parish for the technology institute, because graduates will be almost assured of a high-paying job.
But technology and even education itself are dangerous without wisdom. Indeed, there is nothing worse than an educated fool!
That’s where the new Istrouma will have an edge. It will be a “values-based” school that emphasizes character and core values. A place where people of faith are welcome. A place where thugs and gangs are not!
Today, there is no one place where the people of North Baton Rouge send their children. With no public high school in the area, students are shipped to Belaire and Broadmoor, even Woodlawn. Others go to a variety of charter schools or magnet or gifted and talented programs. But starting this fall, most 9th and 10th graders in North Baton Rouge will attend Istrouma High School. Over the next two years most students in the 6th through 12th grades will go there.
On every street in North Baton Rouge, there will be a growing number of parents who know each other because their children go to school together. They will go to the same PTA meetings and school plays. They will attend the same football games and root for the Indians. Day by day, the people of North Baton Rouge will become a community.
Mark my word. As North Baton Rouge becomes a community, you will begin to see positive changes. People will work together better. They will look out for their neighbors’ kids. They will keep up their lawns. New businesses will open. Pride and a vision for the future will emerge. Blight will be erased. Crime will be reduced. Gangs will become a thing of the past.
If we want to save our parish, we must save North Baton Rouge, and that begins with Istrouma High!