HARVEY, La. - Songs that filled the school cafeteria during kindergarten graduation would have otherwise brought happy tears from proud parents, but the tears at Friday's ceremony were because Homedale Elementary is closing its doors in Harvey. The close-knit school is one of seven in Jefferson Parish forced to close this year.
"The same teacher that taught my wife fourth grade taught my oldest daughter fourth grade," said parent Steve Barker. "They were gonna teach my two youngest kids fourth grade. Now that's not gonna happen."
Those in the community say the school has been a real family since it opened in 1923.
"I came here 50 years ago," remembered Karen Grow who attended the graduation. "My father came to this school and he was 80 something when he passed. That's a long time, he was born in '27," she added.
The Jefferson Parish School Board said it picked Homedale for one of the closings because of termite damage. But with not even two days to digest the news, parents and students worry what's next.
"They're closing our school down to bring our children to a lower-performing school," noted Barker who was referring to McDonogh 26 in Gretna.
Another parent sighed and took a deep breath, "I don't know, without Homedale. There's no place like home," said Leon Arnaud Sr.
Homedale Principal Diane Nowick recognized it was a tough day but told the parents and students they would all get through it. "It's very unsettling because we don't know, and it's four days of school left, three days of school left. It's just very unsettling for everybody."
Nowik wonders about her options now while the school board still doesn't know how many employees will be reassigned among the seven schools closing.
"There's seven principals being displaced, there's seven account clerks being displaced, seven secretaries being displaced, plus the whole staff of teachers," Nowik realized.
She said she might have to come to terms with "calling it quits" if she doesn't get the option to be reassigned. Meantime she feels the parents and students at her 250-student school are in for a big transition. "I think there will be major adjustment problems because a good half of our students walk to school," she pointed out.
The school board voted 8-1 on the closures Wednesday citing $27 million in necessary budget cuts. They estimate the closures will impact about 2,500 students across the parish. Other schools closing include Maggiore Elementary, Rillieux Elementary, Bunche Accelerated Academy, Kate Middelton Elementary, Waggaman Alternative School and St. Ville Accelerated Academy.