Three years from now, more school buses will be on the road in Lafayette Parish once its charter schools are required to transport their students.
Unlike their traditional public school counterparts, certain charter schools previously weren’t required to provide free transportation to students.
The new state education policy requires charter schools currently operating to begin transportation services by the 2018-19 school year to any student who lives a mile or more from the campus. A similar requirement is now mandated for public schools in the state.
While existing charter schools have a nearly three-year window to implement a plan, those charter schools beginning operations for the first time this school year must provide transportation. But that requirement doesn’t apply to any schools in Lafayette Parish, where three charter schools opened last year.
Charter schools currently operating must turn in a transportation services plan to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education by Aug. 28, said Colleen Reynolds, a spokesman for Charter Schools USA. Reynolds said it’s too early to offer details on what their plan looks like. The charter management company oversees two schools in the parish — Lafayette Renaissance Charter Academy and Acadiana Renaissance Charter Academy in Youngsville. The Florida-based company manages other schools in Louisiana, Florida and five other states. Reynolds said the company provides transportation to some of its schools and typically uses a private bus service rather than contracting with the local school system.
National Heritage Academies manages Willow Charter Academy in Lafayette and had planned to open another school in Broussard by August, but another BESE policy related to the performance of the company’s existing charter school in the state stalled the school’s start. Willow Charter is easily accessible by city bus, and sidewalks also are available in the area it’s located, near Willow and Moss streets.
School and NHA officials are reviewing and drafting a plan to submit to BESE by the deadline, said Jennifer Hoff, an NHA spokesman. The company has charter schools in nine states, including Michigan, where its headquarters are located.
Louisiana Department of Education staff proposed the transportation requirement in a report to BESE earlier this year. Currently, charter schools must provide transportation only if it was a requirement of their authorizer. For instance, charter schools that are part of the state Recovery School District are required to provide transportation.
It appears the new policy impacts few charter schools that are classified as Type 2 charters — authorized by BESE rather than a local school board — like the three in Lafayette Parish, which are all authorized by BESE. According to the state education staff report, at least 20 of the state’s 31 Type 2 charter schools already provide transportation to students. In the 2014-15 school year, the following Type 2 charter schools did not provide transportation: Acadiana Renaissance Charter Academy, Lafayette Renaissance Charter Academy and Willow Charter Academy in Lafayette Parish; Advantage Charter Academy, Baton Rouge Charter Academy at Mid-City and Louisiana Key Academy in East Baton Rouge Parish; Delta Charter School in Concordia Parish; International School of Louisiana and Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orleans in Orleans Parish; New Vision Learning Academy in Ouachita Parish; and The Max Charter School in Lafourche Parish.
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