Students return to Lafayette public schools Thursday and a new school year brings a familiar routine but can also mean changes for students, faculty and parents.
It can be difficult to keep track of the details over the summer, so The Acadiana Advocate compiled a short list of changes to be aware of in the final stretch before the morning bells ring.
Meet new principals, administrators
Lafayette’s schools have an entirely new head administrative team. In May, interim superintendent Irma Trosclair took over the district’s top spot after superintendent Donald Aguillard retired at the end of his contract. Trosclair has been with the Lafayette Parish School System since 2015, but this back-to-school season is her first as the district’s leader.
After Trosclair’s selection, she appointed several new top-level administrators, including chief administrators for administration and academics and an associate superintendent. Chief administrative officer Jennifer Gardner was previously principal at L.J. Alleman Middle and chief academic officer Mark Rabalais was assistant principal at Southside High.
Associate superintendent Francis Touchet worked for the Louisiana Department of Education providing support services to 37 school districts, including Lafayette. Before that, he worked in Vermilion Parish as an educator and administrator.
Aside from changes at the central office, there were also shifts in school leadership. New principals were appointed at four Lafayette schools: J. Wallace James Elementary, L.J. Alleman Middle, Paul Breaux Middle and Lafayette High.
Jon Downs left his role as assistant principal at Green T. Lindon Elementary to lead the team at J. Wallace James Elementary. While working at G.T. Lindon, Downs commuted to Baton Rouge nights to complete his doctorate of philosophy in education leadership at Louisiana State University.
Eric Luquette rose from an assistant principal position to the top spot at L.J. Alleman Middle. Luquette attended Alleman and said the experience shaped him as a student and an educator, making the opportunity to serve as principal “a very big deal to me.”
Katherine Rayburn will head Paul Breaux Middle after working as the assistant principal at Katharine Drexel Elementary for the last two years. She’s worked as an elementary teacher in Acadia and Lafayette parishes, and lead Duson Elementary School for 10 years before joining Katharine Drexel.
Rachel Brown, previously an assistant principal, has taken over as leader of Lafayette High. She has a background in American Sign Language and educating deaf students, and taught at Lafayette High for 10 years. Brown is the first woman to lead Lafayette’s largest high school.
Graded homework again option for sixth- through 12th-graders
If you thought graded homework was a thing of the past, think again: The Lafayette Parish School Board added homework back to the grading formula for sixth- through 12th-grade students.
Homework will now count for up to 5 percent of a student’s total grade, after a vote at the July 17 school board meeting. But that doesn’t necessarily mean every child will have graded homework.
Former elementary schools director Kathy Aloisio said the decision about whether to offer graded homework will be left to the individual teacher. It all depends on the class’s needs, she said.
“There’s no rule that says they have to give so much homework. The teachers have the flexibility to give homework and they have the choice to grade or not to grade,” Aloisio said. “If they do choose to grade the homework, they’ll enter it into the gradebook, and it’ll be calculated at no more than 5 percent of their total grade.”
Middle school and high school students’ grades are broken down into two categories: summative and formative. Summative grades are final assessments used to test mastery, like exams or term papers, while formative grades are used to track progress during the semester, like small quizzes or exit tickets at the end of a lesson.
The 5 percent for homework will come from the formative category. In total, the summative category comprises 60 percent of students’ total grade while the formative category counts for 40 percent, including the 5 percent for homework.
Changes made to LPSS uniform policy
Back-to-school also means returning to the district’s uniform policy, and a few details were amended over the summer. This year, students won’t be allowed to wear joggers, a style of pants with elastic at the ankles.
Jeans, leggings, jeggings, wind suits, gym shorts and sweatpants were already prohibited. Pants with cargo pockets or sagging pants are also not allowed, the handbook says.
The handbook also made a slight adjustment to its accepted hairstyle rules, expanding the ban on “extreme…distracting” hairstyles to all students. Previously, the rule only explicitly applied to elementary and middle school students.
Now the rule reads: “All School Students: Extremes in hairstyles that are deemed distracting to the learning environment are not permitted.”
The handbook doesn’t specify what constitutes “extreme” or “distracting.”
District using new communication system for cancelled buses
If your child rides the bus, be sure to add your phone number to your parent portal account to receive updates when a bus is cancelled.
This year, the school district is changing how it communicates with parents about cancelled buses or changes to routes. Everyone will now receive updates through the district’s JCall system, a feature of the Webpams student information system schools already use to track students’ grades, addresses, test scores and other information, chief administrative officer Jennifer Gardner said.
This new system will take the place of principals sending out messages via the Remind app, Facebook or other communication channels.
When a bus is cancelled, a district staff member will send a text message to each family with bus riders at the schools that bus serves. The message will include the bus number, bus driver’s name and information about the change, she said.
Family members or guardians must add a working cell phone number to their parent portal account to receive the messages. Only the account owner can make changes, so each parent or guardian that wants to receive the messages will need to register their own number.
High school students will also be able to receive the cancellation messages if they have a phone number listed on their student account, Gardner said.
Two new schools opening and zoning changes
When school starts Thursday, nearly 800 students will walk through the doors of Lafayette’s two newest schools: Raphael A. Baranco Elementary and Martial Billeaud Elementary.
Just over 500 students are slated to attend Billeaud and another 300 students are registered at Baranco, chief administrative officer Jennifer Gardner said. Billeaud is located at 500 East Fairfield Drive in Broussard and Baranco is opening at 801 Mudd Avenue in Lafayette, in the now-closed N.P. Moss Preparatory Academy building.
Several areas were rezoned to account for the two new schools. About 1,000 students were rezoned from L.J. Alleman Middle, Alice Boucher Elementary, Katharine Drexel Elementary, J.W. Faulk Elementary, Ernest Gallet Elementary, Green T. Lindon Elementary and Youngsville Middle.
Students were rezoned from Katharine Drexel, Green T. Lindon and Ernest Gallet to help build Billeaud, while others were moved from Alice Boucher and J.W. Faulk to form Baranco.
Fifth grade was also removed from Youngsville Middle and Broussard Middle and added to Katharine Drexel and Green T. Lindon, which originally capped at fourth grade.
Not all students who were rezoned will necessarily change schools. There’s an exception for students who were rezoned before their final year at their original school. Families who chose that option will have to provide their own transportation though, Gardner said.
Bus changes accompanied the rezoning, new schools and fifth grade shift. Ten routes total were affected, though six are new routes this year, LPSS transportation director Jonathon Watson said. The number of buses on each route have changed for some, which could change when a child will be picked up and dropped off at the bus stop, he said.