As school begins on Thursday, transportation officials are keeping their eyes on the number of students who show up at bus stops in parts of Lafayette Parish that are seeing a boom in residential construction.
And that growth isn’t just in the Youngsville and Broussard areas but also in other parts of the parish — such as the Acadiana High school zone, which encompasses Scott, said Damon Evans, Lafayette Parish School System transportation director.
“There are subdivisions being built in the Acadiana High zone, so we’re also monitoring that to see how the first week of school goes,” Evans said.
Last year, he said, two routes were added because of residential growth in the Youngsville area. To start this school year, Evans said, a new route was added to accommodate those students rezoned in the Broussard area. In June, the School Board approved a spot rezoning that affected nearly 180 students, shifting them from Youngsville Middle and Green T. Lindon Elementary and rezoning them to Broussard Middle and Katharine Drexel Elementary.
Some parents opposed the change, asking the school system to defer the rezoning until a comprehensive rezoning plan could be developed. Last month, the board hired a demographer to start that work, but because of overcrowding at Lindon and Youngsville Middle, the board opted not to wait on the Broussard/Youngsville zone change.
Rapid residential growth in the area also has led to the board taking steps to build a new high school on property it owns in Youngsville. Currently, the Broussard/Youngsville area is zoned for Comeaux High.
“We have another route we’re thinking of putting together for overflows, because if you go and check, there’s probably about 20 new subdivisions in the Comeaux High district,” Evans said.
Following the start of school last year, some parents in the Comeaux High district lodged concerns to the School Board about students crammed three to a seat, sitting on the bus floor or waiting at bus stops on busy highways. Adjustments were made, and routes were added.
This school year, administrators have been asked to report signs of bus overcrowding to the central office so issues can be worked out, said Joe Craig, the school system’s chief operations officer.
Evans said that after the start of the school year, it typically takes about two weeks for the timing of bus pickups and drop-offs to become routine.
“There is a lot more traffic due to our traffic. Our buses slow down the traffic. Just be patient. Be out there 10 minutes before, 10 minutes after because it could be a 10-minute swing before or after that we get to that stop,” he said.
Evans said there weren’t any major route changes this school year, but changes could come in the 2016-17 school year. Align Planning Group, a division of EduLog, the company the school system uses for its routing system, reviewed current transportation policies and routes, and will present its findings to the School Board’s Executive Committee on Thursday. The company suggests some cost-savings scenarios, such as a 1-mile, half-mile or three-quarter-mile walk zone for students who live within a mile of their campus; no longer providing transportation to students attending schools out of their assigned zones; requiring out-of-zone students to go to a bus stop within the zone for transportation; and changing bell times to reduce the number of buses. The company also suggests that if any major changes are implemented, the school system give parents at least a year’s notice to prepare.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.