On-base families get school choice for K-8

Amanda Simmons
amanda@bossierpress.com

Bossier Schools and Barksdale Air Force Base have reached a milestone victory in their partnership.

Military families living on Barksdale Air Force Base will have K-12 school choice in the 2017-18 academic year, pending a vote by the Bossier Parish School Board Thursday night.

Earlier this year, Bossier Schools sought approval from the U.S. Department of Justice for limited modification to its existing Consent Decree as it pertains to student assignment policy. The specific request was to extend School of Choice privileges to the children of United States military personnel residing on Barksdale Air Force Base, provided the school and/or grade level has the functional capacity to accommodate them.

Students living on base are currently zoned to attend Kerr Elementary, Waller Elementary, Rusheon Middle and Bossier High School. Bossier Schools Superintendent Scott Smith said it’s unclear how many students this will effect at this time.

“Obviously, many families will choose to keep the school in their attendance zone,” he said. “Until the registration process, it’s difficult to know the kind of impact this will have. I do know that none of our schools are at functional capacity so we have openings everywhere. It will be first come, first serve so to speak once we open that process.”

Following approval from the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division, the Consent Order motion was signed Wednesday, July 12 by U.S. District Court Judge Maurice Hicks in the Western District of Louisiana, Shreveport Division.

Smith added that this is still in the developmental process.

“This has happened so quickly,” Smith said. “If the board approves this, then the process goes immediately into effect. We want to make sure we have the policies and procedures ready because we know it will happen. It’s already been approved by the Department of Justice and the U.S. District Court.”

Bossier Schools already grants dependents living on base High School of Choice. By choosing to extend School of Choice at all grade levels, the district continues to demonstrate its unwavering commitment to the military children and their families that are a part of the Bossier Schools family.

Smith believes this decision will help grow Bossier and further promote Barksdale Air Force Base.

“Bossier Schools has long worked side by side with Barksdale to identify and remedy hardships facing our military families,” Smith said. “Not having the option of where they want to live and the choice of which schools their children attend is one of those challenges. It gives us great satisfaction to be able to extend this opportunity to the men and women who serve.”

Col. Ty Neuman, Barksdale Air Force Base 2nd Bomb Wing Commander, said this decision is already being celebrated by families living on base and ones who have orders to join team Barksdale in the near future.

“On behalf of the men and women of Team Barksdale, thank you to Bossier Schools for being the education champion for our children,” Neuman said. “The support and education of our families is critical to our mission success, and we cannot provide that support without Bossier Schools and the greater Bossier/Shreveport community.”

Bossier Schools will be able to further assist military families and answer questions at Barksdale’s Back to School Night scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday, July 24, at the Barksdale Youth Center on base.