GONZALES — As anticipated, the number of students in the Ascension Parish school district grew by about 400 this school year, staying true to the trend of the last several years.
The official student count won’t be in until October, but on the first day of school, on Aug. 6, there were 20,181 students, up from 19,780 at the start of last school year, School Board spokesman Johnnie Balfantz said.
That busy first day of school “went very well,” Balfantz said.
“Ascension Parish school system is ranked third in the state’s academic accountability program. We are once again setting high expectations for our students this school year,” Superintendent Patrice Pujol said in a statement before the start of the school year.
“We are moving full speed ahead with our rigorous academic goals, aimed at preparing every child for the end result: a positive college and/or career experience,” she said.
The school district continues to move forward with its One-to-One project to one day provide a computing device to every student in the system, with new expansions of the program every year. The project is funded by a dedicated technology tax that was renewed by voters in May 2013 for another 10 years. The type of computer devices cover a variety of technology and includes laptops and computer notebooks and tablets.
The devices are available for students in sixth through eighth grade districtwide; all grades at St. Amant and Donaldsonville high schools; and the ninth and 10th grades at East Ascension and Dutchtown high schools, said Jake Ragusa, director of information systems and technology for the school district.
This year, the project will be expanded to the fifth grade districtwide, with devices expected to be in the schools by early October, he said.
“When the fifth-grade devices are delivered, we will have approximately 12,000 devices being used by the students participating” throughout the district, Ragusa said. That’s more than half of the student population at this point.
Galvez Middle, where vandals struck the week before school began, was cleaned and all systems — fire alarm, security system and lighting — repaired before students arrived last week, said Chad Lynch, planning and construction director for the school district.
“All is repaired and in working order,” Lynch said.
Lynch said he went by Galvez Middle on the first day of school and it was a “normal day,” just like at any of the schools, he said.
Estimates for the repair and cleanup work at the school are in the neighborhood of $45,000 to $50,000, Lynch said.
Lynch said the new grass planted at the football fields at East Ascension and St. Amant high schools is “doing good. It’s all planted and growing.”
“We’re watching Mother Nature do her work,” he said.
Bus routes are going smoothly, Lynch said. The district has 225 school buses and added a couple of new routes, something that typically happens at the beginning of every school year.
He said the district is looking for more substitute bus drivers.
Drivers should have their commercial driver’s license, with a student passenger endorsement, Lynch said.
The School Board gives a class yearly for drivers looking to get that endorsement, he said.