One of the oldest schools in Louisiana still in existence is the Coteau Rodaire School. The early St. Martin Parish school was built on property acquired from Alexandre Babineaux on November 9, 1892. Alexandre was a veteran of the Confederate States, and, like most soldiers, came home and had to deal with ravages of the war.
Veterans, having seen public education in other states, were concerned with the improvement of their chidren’s education. Public schools in Acadiana did not exist at the time, so children learned to read and write from their parents or neighbors.
The bible, written in French, was usually one of the few books read at home. English was learned through private or religious schools, if available, otherwise children remained uneducated in the English language.
Mr. Babineaux donated the one arpent lot on which the school was built; however, when the deed was prepared, the document was executed as a cash sale for $10.00 in order to make it legal.
What is so unique about this school is that it represents a transition from a church to a public building. It is one of the few schools still in existence that was designed by the architect to look like a small church.
Both of my parents attended the school on the property, which was donated by my mother’s grandfather.
Records of the early years are missing, but some early staff members from 1917 were W. H. Trappey, who was principal, and Adine Nichols and August Pelafigue, who were teachers.
Other teachers, in 1919, were Moise Thibodeaux and Genevieve Angers. Genevieve de Lassus, who was an assistant teacher, worked in 1921. Verne Maraist worked there in 1938. Elizabeth Holcomb taught in 1942, and Bernice Dupuis in 1945.
Research about the early years of the school continues.
August Pelafigue, who taught many years at the school, came directly from France. He was a strict disciplinarian and a very religious person. Pelafique would start every class with a prayer. He demanded respect from every child.
In the 1940’s, there was a movement to consolidate the schools in the parish.
In 1949, a motion to close the school was made and was approved by the school board.
William Wiltz was appointed as a bus driver to transport the children from the Coteau Rodaire area to the school in Arnaudville. In August of 1950, the school board accepted proposals for moving the one-story school building, latrine and cistern, to the new school site at Huron.
On Jan. 4, 1951, the land was auctioned to the highest bidder. The school building was moved to its present site at Huron (SMILE) School and the one-room house is now used as a kitchen.
Every effort should be made to preserve the historic building.
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