Boutte’s community college is thriving online, physical opening set for 2021

While construction work on the physical campus is still wrapping up, Boutte’s River Parishes Community College – United Way campus has already made a splash this semester with online classes.

RPCC St. Charles Campus Director Penelope Shumaker said 59 students are currently enrolled in and taking completely online classes through the college while everyone waits for the physical location to be completed.

Those students and the large number of course hours they are taking, Shumaker said, has already established the Boutte school within the Louisiana Technical College System – while the St. Charles Parish campus may be the most recently established, it is already not the smallest campus.

“We in St. Charles had more credit hours than another campus,” Shumaker said. “Our students are taking more classes, and when we go back to classes in January there will be some hybrid classes and not just fully online classes.”

United Way of St. Charles Executive Director John Dias said he was encouraged by the college’s first semester, even if it was completely online.

“I think it’s a very, very positive report that even online we’re not the smallest campus,” Dias said. “It really shows the demand for this in the community.”

The college will officially open its doors in January 2021.The campus is a result of a partnership with River Parishes Community College in Reserve, which agreed to manage the St. Charles Parish campus if the United Way found a building.

Shumaker said while the Boutte campus is fully staffed, the addition of more adjunct instructors would mean the campus could offer more classes. Currently there are math, English and biology courses scheduled for the spring 2021 semester.

Small spring class capacity due to COVID, Shumaker said, means she anticipates classes filling quickly.

The United Way purchased a 3.9-acre site at 13143 Highway 90 for the community college’s future location. The project will cost an estimated $3.3 million, including $1.4 million to renovate the 16,389 square-foot bingo hall and the addition of 439 square feet. The renovation will provide a facelift for the center section of the building.

Dias said administrators will be able to move in their offices by the end of November, adding construction and renovation work has proceeded without any major setbacks.

“I’m very comfortable giving a strong, ringing endorsement with Lamar, the local contractor,” Dias said. “We’ve been really happy with their performance. When we lost power with the storm, they rented generators so that they could continue to work. We’re very happy with them and very happy with the progress.”

Dias said the campus’ goal is to serve a wide range of students – including people right out of high school wanting to learn a trade, students wishing to start at a smaller institution before transferring to a large university and people working in a minimum wage job looking for an advancement opportunity. He said the school’s academic and program offerings will grow each year as school becomes established.

“What a huge opportunity this is for the families in the area, for the businesses in the area and for the generations in the area,” Dias said. “No United Way in the country anywhere has ever had a big enough vision to pull something like this off. Our board of directors should be proud for trying to achieve something this big.”

Dias said the establishment of the St. Charles campus presented the United Way of St. Charles with a chance to change generations through education.

“We will never be able to measure the amount of people whose lives will change because of this, but we know it will make a difference,” he said.

For information regarding admission and enrollment, contact 985-536-4418 or 225-743-8500.


About Monique Roth 919 Articles
Roth has both her undergraduate and graduate degree in journalism, which she has utilized in the past as an instructor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a reporter at various newspapers and online publications. She grew up in LaPlace, where she currently resides with her husband and three daughters.

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