Daily class schedules for about 6,400 Catholic elementary students will likely remain unchanged this fall, a school leader said Wednesday.
Last month Melanie Verges, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, said students at an estimated 10 schools faced the prospect of classes lasting from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. instead of the current 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
Verges said the possible switch, which she said would be disruptive for thousands of families, stemmed from bus changes sparked by public school budget cuts.
But she said that, after meeting with East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent John Dilworth earlier this month, no such change is expected now.
The East Baton Rouge Parish school district, like others statewide, traditionally provides bus transportation for many private and parochial students.
The state used to pick up part of the tab, which by law is a local responsibility.
However, state budget problems, including a $1.6 billion shortfall, mean no such aid is coming in the current school year.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed operating budget also excludes the aid for the 2011-12 school year.
That means the East Baton Rouge parish school system will likely have to absorb what officials say is more than $2 million annually to transport private and parochial students.
That expense, Catholic school leaders said last month, spurred plans to revamp pickup and drop-off times for their students.
Verges said she and others met with Dilworth on May 4.
“We had a formal meeting looking for alternatives,” she said.
“And he really didn’t offer alternatives at the meeting,” Verges said.
“But evidently some of the (school) board members felt like they might want to look for the cuts somewhere else,” she added.
Dilworth was in meetings on Wednesday and unavailable for comment, said Chris Trahan, spokesman for the district.
However, Trahan echoed Verges’ view that Catholic school schedules are unlikely to change or even be discussed at Thursday’s board meeting.
“I think there was an agreement among board members that there was not enough support to place it on the agenda at this time,” he said.
Verges said she is encouraged that the issue is not on the agenda for board discussion.
Last month the East Baton Rouge Parish school system approved $33.3 million in budget cuts, which is about 8 percent of general fund spending.
Some public school officials argued that, because of those reductions, Catholic schools should share in the impact.
Catholic school officials contend that bus transportation represents a small return on local tax dollars paid by the families of students who use those schools rather than public schools.