BROUSSARD — In August, sixth-grader Alyssa Simon starts a new school, leaving behind classmates she’s known since she was a kindergartner.
While the change won’t be easy, her family is helping her adjust to it. They took their first steps together on their journey to learn more about her new school during a special open house Tuesday evening at Broussard Middle School.
The open house was specifically for students like Alyssa who were rezoned from Green T. Lindon Elementary and Youngsville Middle Schools to Broussard-area schools.
“We’ve heard good things about the school and the principal,” said Anne Simon, Alyssa’s mom.
The School Board approved the rezoning last month. It affects 177 students who attend the two Youngsville schools and rezones them to Broussard Middle and Katharine Drexel Elementary — schools where there’s more classroom space and also closer to where they live.
The decision received some push-back from parents who asked for more time to prepare for the change, especially since a comprehensive rezoning is expected to take effect for the entire parish in the 2016-17 school year.
Alyssa’s mom said the timing of the decision wasn’t ideal, but they’re trying to make the best of it and looking forward to learning more about the school.
“We don’t really have a lot of questions,” Anne Simon said. “We went to the open house at Drexel and a lot of our questions were answered there. We’re wanting to meet the teachers tonight and find out about scheduling. She took French there and was in chorus. I want to make sure that she has those same opportunities here.”
“My favorite subject is French,” Alyssa said.
Nearby, Broussard Middle student Jakhari Broussard told her, “The French teacher is nice here.” Jakhari, 13, and a handful of other students stood outside the school’s cafeteria greeting parents and the incoming students, “Hello, welcome to Broussard Middle!”
Anne Simon introduced herself and Alyssa to the small group of students.
There are some exceptions to the rezoning change and families can apply for a hardship waiver to stay at their current school.
Decisions on waiver requests will be made by a committee on June 17, said Randy Bernard, an academic specialist who also acts as a media liaison for the school system. As of Monday, five waiver requests had been received, he said.
The school system will allow those students who live in the rezoned area who are rising eighth-graders at Youngsville Middle or rising fourth-graders at Lindon to remain at their schools for their final year there. The school system also is extending the option for siblings of those students to remain at their schools — but only for one year. That means that the next year — even if that student would be in the fourth or eighth grade in the 2016-17 school year — they’d have to go to the school in their new zone, either to Broussard Middle or Katharine Drexel. Siblings must file a hardship waiver form.
In late June, Drexel Principal Denise Soileau held an open house for incoming parents and students affected by the rezoning to tour the school and Tuesday evening, Broussard Middle Principal John Mouton opened his doors for rezoned families.
Simon’s son is going into the fourth grade and has the option to remain at Green T. Lindon, but the family couldn’t work out his transportation, so he’ll make the move to Drexel.
“That way he’ll get to know the kids at Drexel and can move with them to (Broussard Middle),” she said.
Tuesday’s open house was a chance for families to get to know students, teachers and tour the campus, Mouton said. School staff has fielded questions via Facebook and email about the rezoning and the upcoming school year.
“We’re doing this to try to deal with the emotional issues and questions that people have,” Mouton said.
He said as many as 66 students in fifth through seventh grades could be enrolling in the school due to the rezoning. At least 23 eighth-graders will have a choice to stay at Youngsville Middle or make the move to Broussard Middle.
The School Board last week hired demographer Mike Hefner to start work on a comprehensive rezoning for the entire parish. Hefner told the board last week that he’d likely have a zoning plan to share by the Christmas break to give families time to review the changes, which if approved by the board, wouldn’t take effect until the 2016-17 school year.
In addition to the rezoning process, the board also approved a new policy that sets parameters for rezoning, including a zoning review and possible changes every three years.
Superintendent Donald Aguillard wrote a letter to parents of the affected students following the board’s decision to approve the rezoning.
He wrote that he hoped to clarify some questions parents might have about the process and to make families aware of options, such as the hardship waiver and where to find updated information as activities are planned at the Broussard schools.
“We are very aware that you have many questions and concerns,” Aguillard wrote. “We feel that great things can be accomplished if we actively work together to find reasonable solutions that benefit your child. As our community grows and progresses it is important that all stakeholders assist in creating a quality school system that offers every child equitable opportunities and an excellent education.”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.