New Lafayette board to learn the basics at orientation session _lowres

Justin Centanni, Lafayette Parish School Board District 6

The Lafayette Parish School Board will decide in a few weeks whether to give priority enrollment to students who live within a one-mile radius of some schools-of-choice campuses.

Board member Justin Centanni, who is awaiting enrollment data on students who live near the campuses that would be affected by the proposal, said he suggested the idea as a way to save transportation costs.

The schools-of-choice program gives students options to attend schools out of their zone that offer specialized curriculum in areas such as environmental science, health care, technology, performing arts and foreign language immersion. Students are required to submit an application for a spot in the programs and are selected for enrollment by a computerized lottery typically held in February.

Some schools-of-choice options are located within zoned schools, while a handful are schools that only enroll students by schools-of-choice application. The proposed change, if approved by the board, would affect those schools: J. Wallace James Elementary (arts), L. Leo Judice Elementary (environmental sciences), Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy, Early College Academy and Myrtle Place Elementary (French immersion).

Centanni said he is curious how many students who live within a one-mile walk of those schools have applied to go but didn’t receive a spot in the lottery process.

“From this point, it’s a transportation issue,” Centanni said. “It wouldn’t make sense to bus a kid in from far away and then to bus a kid who lives near the school and who could be walking to school farther away. I want to see what the impact would be. It may not be financially feasible.”

Centanni said many students who live near J. Wallace James take buses to Westside Elementary within the city limits of Scott. The two schools are about four miles apart.

School-of-choice director Robin Olivier said her staff is still reviewing relevant data needed to make any type of recommendation to the board.

“I’m sure there will be some debate on the pros and cons,” she said. “We’re still in the research stages to determine the full potential of allowing students within that one-mile radius. We want to vet out all the ripple effects of making such a move.”

Olivier said the School Board has never considered the option of allowing students who live within walking distance first priority to attend a schools-of-choice school.

“From our viewpoint, we want to offer what’s best for the students of Lafayette Parish and we’re still reviewing all the data to determine that,” Olivier said.

The application period for schools of choice closes Jan. 31. The lottery will be held in early 2016.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.