A year — that’s how long some parents whose children would be the first affected by proposed school zone changes have asked the Lafayette Parish School Board to wait before moving the lines that divvy up where students go to school.
The board faces a decision at its meeting Wednesday on whether to approve a slight change in the zone lines for families living in the Broussard area who currently attend Youngsville schools.
If approved, the affected students would no longer attend Green T. Lindon Elementary and Youngsville Middle. Instead, they would be assigned to attend Katharine Drexel Elementary and Broussard Middle — both of which are closer to their homes.
Board member Jeremy Hidalgo represents the district affected by the zone change. He met with concerned parents this week to discuss the issue and he and other board members who attended the meeting — Justin Centanni and Dawn Morris — were asked to table changes until the 2016-17 school year.
Sheena Bouquet was one of the parents who met with Hidalgo. If the current zones remain, her son would start fifth grade at Youngsville Middle and her daughter would continue on to first grade at Green T. Lindon Elementary.
“Our original suggestion was to grandfather students in because we bought our homes advertised in a certain school district, so let us ride out our time,” Bouquet said Thursday. “It was apparent from the three School Board members present last night that that wouldn’t fly. My counterproposal was give us one year.”
Hidalgo said Thursday he’d consider deferring decisions until then, if the Youngsville school leaders and staff thought they could handle the influx of students expected in the school year that starts in August.
“They’re saying, ‘We have two empty classrooms at Youngsville Middle and the population growth will fill that in no time and then what are we going to do?’ ” Hidalgo said Thursday. “If (the administration) says, ‘Yes, we can sustain this one more year,’ then I’m certainly not opposed to waiting.”
The zoning change is the first of several expected modifications. The board has stressed in the past few weeks that the staff needs to focus on balancing out student populations. Past enrollment data shows that some schools are beyond capacity while other schools have empty classrooms.
Broussard Mayor Charles Langlinais also attended the meeting, which was well attended by parents living in the Cypress Meadows and Cypress Crossing neighborhoods that are affected by the proposed zone change.
Langlinais said Thursday that he told board members and parents at the meeting that he didn’t think rezoning was the answer to the growth issues.
“Rezoning is a Band-Aid fix,” he said Thursday. “They’ve got to move forward building schools.”
Hidalgo said that while he agrees with Langlinais, zoning will help alleviate crowded conditions in the schools that has to be dealt with now.
Langlinais and Hidalgo also agreed that a tax would have to be passed to build new schools. The mayor said he thinks a dedicated sunset tax that would expire after a certain period of time would help the board win trust among voters.
The mayor criticized the former School Board, whose term ended in December, with not addressing facility issues sooner.
“The last School Board dilly-dallied and fought amongst themselves and changed superintendents twice,” Langlinais said. “They completely forgot what they were supposed to be doing.”
The mayor credited the current board for “focusing and learning quickly” and for its recent decision to build a new high school in the Youngsville area.
But, he said, more schools are still needed.
Hidalgo, who serves as chairman of the board’s Facilities Committee, said rezoning is “the most logical resolution” in the short term.
“I wish the conversation we’re having was about new schools,” Hidalgo said. “That’s not feasible at this time. This is somewhat of a Band-Aid approach, but this is a pretty big cut. If we don’t put a Band-Aid on it, it’ll bleed out,” Hidalgo said.
Bouquet questioned why the School Board and school system didn’t involve parents sooner.
The meeting with Hidalgo held Wednesday evening was organized at the request of another parent, Misty White, who attended the board’s June 3 meeting with other parents who publicly questioned the rezoning plan.
“In May, the new superintendent said he wanted two to three months to look at zoning proposals,” Bouquet said. “At the same meeting, another School Board member suggested involving parents. None of those things happened.”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.