Walking into the Baranco Clark YMCA might prompt you to do a double take. Students walking in straight lines to and from rooms with smiles, teachers manning different stations along the hallway to ensure order, and numerous yellow bean bags filled with reading students, circled in the middle of the gym.
It’s been four weeks since Democracy Prep Baton Rouge relocated to the Baranco Clark YMCA, following the historic flooding in South Louisiana. Democracy Prep suffered significant flood damage, with more than 18 inches of standing water encompassing the school. All Baton Rouge schools closed following the flood, with East Baton Rouge Public School System announcing closure for four additional weeks. While district public schools remained closed, the Democracy Prep team took action to get kids back in school.
Seventh-grade teacher, Devin Camarota, recalls the days following the flood, saying all faculty members gathered downtown at the City Year Baton Rouge office the Tuesday following the flood. “When we got there our principal had already come up with this outstanding outline of all the goals we wanted to make happen. Then the next day they started happening.” The Democracy Prep team began contacting families to assess immediate needs, then promptly hand-delivered care packages to more than 50 affected families. “I mean being in that room, in that moment, I realized this is incredible. This is not happening anywhere else. Then, hearing about other schools and what they were doing I was like ‘Oh, wow. This REALLY isn’t happening anywhere else,’” said Camarota.
Democracy Prep opened Constant Learners Academy, not only for their students but for any displaced student seeking a sense of normalcy. One parent told The Advocate his son needed school now more than ever. “Sitting in here all day ain’t doing him no good. He was getting depressed. It would be good for him to go back to school.” The Democracy Prep team realized the need for stability in students’ lives. Mizel Stuart, a sixth-grade student, said, “It was horrible to see everyone’s houses destroyed and not ours. But to see our school open up so fast is like, no matter what we go through we can still learn, and no matter what we do we will always be constant learners.”
Democracy Prep plans to reopen at its original campus in early October.