DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (BRPROUD) — In less than a week, students in Livingston Parish will be headed back to the classrooms.

“The greatest thing that happens every year is the first day of school. When the buses roll up and those kids get off those buses, it just makes our day,” said Livingston Parish Superintendent Alan Murphy.

Students on the south side of Denham Springs will be smiling a bit bigger than the rest. After six years without a brick and mortar, their day of triumph finally arrived. 

“Our last two flooded schools, Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High, which are all in one mega campus just south of the interstate on Highway 16,” said Murphy. “The design of those schools [was] intentional. The design was meant to make every space a learning space on those campuses. And I think when our community and our children see those spaces they’re going to understand.”

Southside Elementary and Junior High construction

While one school is nearing completion, another has taken a few steps back.

“Our main gym at Live Oak Junior High caught fire, we’re in the process of going through that now,” Murphy explained. “I want to assure the Watson community that we’re moving forward as fast as we possibly can and we will replace that facility or repair that facility as soon as we find out what the actual extent of the damage is, and we’re moving on that project also.”

On the brighter side of athletics, the Denham Springs High’s Jacket’s Nest is getting a little bigger this year with brand new athletics facilities set to be completed this fall.

“One of the biggest reasons is we were losing some of our athletes to other communities [is] because we just didn’t have the facilities,” said Livingston Parish School Board President Cecil Harris.

These facilities were dreamt of for years by present and past students, but it’s now becoming reality in 2022.

DSHS New Football Field and Track under construction; Courtesy: Denham Springs High School

Denham Springs High School (DSHS) Principal Wesley Howard is ready to finally compete at home.

“Anybody in the community that drives by has seen all kinds of construction going on around Denham Springs High School. We have a softball field, a baseball field and a football field that are nearing completion and that we’re hoping to have ready for some games,” he said.

The new stadiums are state of the art, with a track, press boxes, field houses and more.

“I played back in the day here back in the late 60s, and our facilities were nothing like this,” said Harris. “It looks like everything’s on one campus. And so you can sit and you can see the baseball lights and the football lights.”

“Our community got behind it,” said Murphy. “So if you want to know how important it is, think about that for a few minutes. This is a $15 million investment at Denham Springs High School.”

With these new fields, school leaders believe they knocked it out of the park. They’re hoping to re-energize the school and the community.

“It’s just going to create more opportunities for us to create and raise more money,” said Harris. “We’re hoping this is going to bring us several state championships.”

“I hope people understand the importance of how athletics fits in with that school culture and climate and what a connection athletics has to the community,” added Murphy.

Principal Howard said the new facilities are just a bonus to the educational system.

“I really do feel strongly that our teachers are of the caliber that they’re not only delivering outstanding instruction to our students, but they’re making sure the students have the things beyond instruction that they need,” he said.

To further strengthen communication, DSHS developed an app.

“You have a calendar with events staff directory where you can contact or communicate with a teacher,” said Howard.

DSHS App

These developments did not go unnoticed, the school system is experiencing rapid growth and will welcome back 26,000 students across 46 campuses.

“I will tell you last year we picked up over the year before about 600 kids,” said Murphy.

That can be compared to an entire school’s worth of students.

“We’ll have our teaching slots filled and we’re going to run on 300 buses and we’re going to do all the things that we normally do. But is it a struggle? Yes,” said Murphy.

Despite teacher shortage obstacles and exciting new changes in the district, schools are praying for a breath of simplicity in 2022.

“This year is going to be the first year where we haven’t had big upheavals and changes or mitigation policies for COVID and things like that in place. So I’m hoping we can start this as a normal school year, get the students in. Offer the same great classes that we’ve had every year for our kids and just get a good, normal start of school,” said Howard.

Livingston Parish students will be back in the classrooms on August 9th.