Despite pleas from parents who asked the Lafayette Parish School Board to wait a year before moving the zone lines that would send their children out of Youngsville schools to ones in Broussard, the board decided to move forward with the zone change to alleviate cramped classrooms.
The decision affects at least 177 students who live in the Broussard area and changes their assigned schools from Green T. Lindon Elementary and Youngsville Middle to Katharine Drexel Elementary and Broussard Middle.
The board voted 6-3 in support of the change. Board members Elroy Broussard, Britt Latiolais, Dawn Morris, Tommy Angelle, Erick Knezek and Mary Morrison voted in support. Jeremy Hidalgo, Justin Centanni and Tehmi Chassion voted no.
Hidalgo spoke on behalf of parents in his district who are affected by the zone change and asked Superintendent Donald Aguillard why the change can’t wait until the 2016-17 school year. Families need time to make chid care arrangements and prepare their children, Hidalgo said.
“We know that zoning across the parish is going to happen, but I think the timeline is a great concern,” Hidalgo said. “Why such a rush issue?”
Aguillard told board members that he and other staff members toured the southern part of the parish Wednesday morning and had serious concerns about the residential growth in the area. He said that between 2012 and 2014, the annual average of permits issued for Youngsville was 461 and that in the first four months of 2015, the city had issued 199 permits.
“At that rate, the city of Youngsville would be issuing about 600 building permits for the year 2015,” Aguillard said.
The issue is one that should have been addressed years ago, and while the board recently moved to build a new high school in Youngsville, a new K-8 school for the area also is needed, Aguillard said.
“We have some serious concerns that this board and this community has not really dealt with the need for new construction in the school system for a decade, maybe longer,” Aguillard said. “We are in a situation now where we will be faced with campuses that no longer have the capacity to install additional temporary buildings.”
He added that when that time comes, the board will need to consider platooning students — meaning dividing the student population into groups and alternating the days the groups attend school. That’s not an ideal scenario, especially for elementary students, Aguillard said.
At least five parents spoke out against the zone change. Many asked the board to wait at least until the board could hire a demographer and create a parishwide rezoning plan.
“We need more time to stabilize our children,” Sheena Bouquet said. “We’ve developed rapport with these counselors and teachers.”
Bouquet’s daughter would go to first grade at Green T. Lindon and her son would start fifth grade at Youngsville Middle if the zone remained unchanged.
“We should implement a full plan at one time and not piecemeal it,” Bouquet said.
One mother begged for more time so her family could relocate to ensure that her son, who has autism, has continued success at Youngsville Middle. The move to another school would be devastating for him, she told the board.
Aguillard said there is a hardship case appeal process to consider situations where the transition isn’t plausible for families. He added that the board also will take action on a proposed policy that would allow students in the oldest grade level at a school to remain there if they’re affected by a zone change.
The zoning change affects neighborhoods near Broussard Middle — in fact, the school is within walking distance and would be a nice stroll if there were sidewalks.
The zone modification is the first of several that are necessary to balance student enrollment populations across the parish.
Also during the meeting, the board voted to change when it meets. Starting in July, its meetings will be held the first and second Wednesdays of the month. Traditionally, the board has met on the first and third Wednesdays, so items on the agenda that appear as an introduction weren’t voted on until at least two weeks later.
The board approved the change in an 8-1 vote with Chassion voting against.
The board’s decision to change the meeting dates also results in a change in its order of business.
Now, the first meeting of the month will include only time-sensitive introductory items, but mostly actionable items. The second meeting will be reserved for those issues that don’t require a board decision: student and staff recognitions, reviews of financial reports, informational reports presented by staff and introduction items. However, time-sensitive action items that require board approval may also be considered during the second meeting of the month.
Lumping the introductory items that aren’t time-sensitive into the second meeting will enable the public up to three weeks to review them, Aguillard has said.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.