Students, parents fight to keep Catahoula Elementary open

St. Martin Parish

ST. MARTINVILLE, La. (KLFY) — Parents and students of Catahoula Elementary School in St. Martin Parish are speaking out after a U.S. district judge ordered the closure of the school.

The judge ordered the school to shut down due to a decades-old desegregation lawsuit against the school district. She says the school district failed to treat black students and teachers equally.

The closure of Catahoula Elementary is supposed to better integrate black and white students and teachers, according to the judge.

Parents and students of the elementary school, however, say they are blaming the school district for the closure of their school. 

They say they believe if the school district would have taken this decades-old desegregation lawsuit against them more seriously years ago, they wouldn’t have to be fighting to keep their school open right now.

“It did not feel good at all,” Harper Dugas, a second grader at C.E.S., said.

Parents also say they’re upset the school is being forced to close.

“Why do more harm? You’re not standing up for our kids. You don’t care about our kids if you’re playing the politics,” Kate White, a mom with two autistic children, said.

White says she needs her kids at the closest school possible to her in Catahoula.

 “I’m more concerned about my kids getting the education they need on their level than what the school district wants, to play politics and not do their job on people of color,” White told News 10.

Betty Ardoin, a retired C.E.S. teacher, says the school district dropped the ball in this desegregation case, not the school itself.

“This school has never, ever turned away any person of any cultural background. They were nurtured as equal people,” Ardoin added.

“All the staff was respectful and never treated anyone else differently from each other. They care,” second grader Harper Dugas chimed in.

Dugas agrees and says she wants to save her school.

“I love Catahoula so much. I can’t even describe it. I can’t say how much I love it,” she said.

Parents, students, and former teachers at a meeting regarding the school’s closre on Tuesday said they will fight for the school to stay open. 

They’re asking the school board to appeal the judge’s decision to close the school because they say they believe it is they who dropped the ball in this case.

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