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Bossier schools to gain 500 students this fall

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FILE PHOTO | Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune

The Bossier Parish School System is predicted to grow by more than 500 students in the 2018-2019 school year, according to Superintendent Scott Smith.

“It’s almost like we’re growing another elementary school,” he said.

Bossier Schools also grew by 500 students this school year, meaning the district will have grown by more than 1,000 students in one calendar year.

By next year, Bossier will have already exceeded the 2020 enrollment projections.

“We are the fastest growing school district in north Louisiana and the second fastest growing in the state. There’s no sign of it slowing down,” Smith said.

The highest growth area in the parish continues to be the north Bossier/Benton corridor. Benton High School is predicted to grow the most by about 170 students.

Smith said they’ve already hired seven new teachers as a result. Classroom space will be a little tighter, too, until their new campus opens in the fall of 2019.

“We may have to bring in some more temporary buildings,” Smith said. “Obviously opening the new school is going to help alleviate the problem in Benton.”

However, Smith said the brand new $45.5 million school will open at almost full capacity, which is around 1,450 students. The campus was designed with the ability to serve 1,650 students with the addition of a classroom wing if necessary.

“That’s a concern,” Smith said. “It’s something the board will have to watch as we continue to have growth in that area.”

The school board is also considering their options to alleviate growing pains at Kingston Elementary.

Kingston’s projected enrollment over the next few years is 1,700-1,800 students. For perspective, that’s approaching Airline High School numbers, which is the largest school in the parish.

“We can’t have that many at one elementary school,” Smith explained. “There are several different things the board is looking at. There’s a possibility that we could make the present [Benton] middle school an elementary school or we could take a leveled approach, where the middle school now would be a fifth and sixth grade school and high school campus now would be a seventh and eighth grade campus. That would take the fifth grade pressure off of all Benton elementary schools.”

Another high growth area is in the eastern part of the parish. The new Haughton Elementary School, which will open this fall, was built to alleviate pressure from Haughton’s existing three elementary schools. The K-5 configured school is located at the former middle school campus on S. Elm Street.

The good news, Smith said, is that the remaining growth is spread out enough that the existing schools will be able to absorb it. But there’s always unknown growth that the district can’t prepare ahead of time for.

Smith said this is the kind of growth that could happen anywhere in the parish at any time.

“We’re already growing, but that could be a game changer,” Smith said. “That’s the growth that we just don’t know about yet because Bossier City and Bossier Parish has become a very, very popular place to live. Part of that reason is because we’re an ‘A’ rated public school system.”

Bossier Schools is in its sixth year of a ten year bond program. The $210 million bond referendum was passed by public vote in April 2012 to build new schools and improve existing ones.

Smith said that money met their needs for “the foreseeable future,” but there will be other needs to address “very soon” because of the continued growth.

“Growth is a wonderful thing, but we have to be prepared for that growth,” Smith said. “We will have to approach this head on and fairly soon…hopefully sooner than later. We have to make sure we have the available space and materials our students need to be successful in the future.”

Who said Head Custodians aren’t smart? Mr. Smith and I are on the same page. I suggested a long time ago to anyone that would listen that BMS should become a 5 and 6 grade to eliminate over crowded elementary schools in our Benton areas. Also, old BHS should be better suited for 7 and 8 grades. Lastly, then the BPSB could sell off these 18 temporary buildings we have on site.
Thanks Mr. Smith your an awesome Superintendent and for looking out for our schools and growth!