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New school year begins Thursday

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New technology, systems, and programs all part of Bossier Parish changes to be implemented in 2013-14

Thousands of children throughout the parish will be boarding their school buses for the first day of school Thursday morning.

The first week will be exciting with the implementation of new technology, systems and programs.

Once at school, students will see noticeable changes to their every day routines, one of which will be in the cafeteria. This will be the first full year that schools will utilize the new cafeteria management system and palm scanners.

The scanning devices, or Fujitsu PalmSecure technology, use an infrared light to read each student’s palm, which maps out the points in a page and a half long document of random encrypted data that ties to their individual meal plan.

The palm scanning technology is said to be 99-percent accurate, unlike the identification cards that can be swiped by anyone who may pick it up, by accident or not. Another advantage is the additional payment options available to parents.

The palm scanners will be placed at the end of each food line and monitored by a cashier. Once the hand is over the scanner, students are given a green light and cashiers can see whether a student has a food allergy or if they have been given parental consent to purchase more food items or not.

If a parent chooses to opt out of the hand scanning system, Bailes said written notification to the school system is required.

Also, parents can now use debit or credit cards to make payments on school lunch accounts through a company called School Payment Solutions. They will have the option to monitor lunch accounts from their personal computers, make online payments and keep an eye on what their child is eating at school.

Bailes said lunch prices have also increased by 10-cents per grade level from the previous school year. The increase comes after the School Board voted in June to increase lunch prices, which Bailes said is based on a mandate by the Louisiana Department of Education.

The increase only affects lunch prices; breakfast and extra sales are not affected.

“Our prices must be equivalent to the federal reimbursement rate of $2.59 for free and reduced lunch,” she said.

There is a new way to apply for a reduced price meal plan in a safe, secure and private manner. ApplyforLunch.com is an internet portal, available on the Bossier Schools website, which allows applicants to sign up from the privacy of their own homes.

There is no charge to apply and the application takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.

In the classrooms, teachers will begin a full implementation of the common core state standards as authorized by the Louisiana Department of Education.

“Over the summer we have been preparing our administrators and teachers for the upcoming school year with professional development opportunities designed to expand and tweak the educational reform initiatives that were put in place last year and enhance the learning environments for the students within our classrooms,” Superintendent D.C. Machen said.

Bailes said the new state standards will create uniformity in education around the state and country with an emphasis on English, writing and math.

In the wake of the new changes, school officials are asking for patience with bus routes and schedules during the first few weeks.

“We are asking the public to have patience with our new and existing bus drivers as they navigate their routes,” Sonja Bailes, public relations liaison for Bossier Schools, said. “They will be navigating through construction zones, finding alternative routes around closed roads and bridges and adjusting to their routes.”

In the coming weeks, Bailes said information about school bus routes, including pick up locations, estimated time of arrival and driver name, will be available electronically through a new information database located on the Bossier Schools website.

Bossier Schools has several construction projects lined up for the year. Last month, officials broke ground on the first major project mapped out in Bossier’s 10-year construction and renovation plan.

The three four-room wings will be added to W.T. Lewis Elementary School, which has experienced substantial growth since the school opened in 2008. The classroom additions are slated for completion next summer, just in time for the 2014-15 school year.

Carrie Martin Elementary and Bossier High School also received some attention this summer with electrical upgrades to their existing facilities. Upcoming projects include the new Kingston Road elementary school, the new technical school and new middle school in Haughton.

“With eager anticipation we continue to make progress in our major construction initiatives, marked by the recent groundbreaking for wing additions at W.T. Lewis Elementary and other projects included in Phase I of the building program,” Machen said. “We are excited about the start of a new school year and the continued growth we are experiencing within our community and school system.”

The first of school for students in grades 1-12 is Thursday, Aug. 8. The first regular day for all Kindergarten students is Thursday, Aug. 15.

For more information on the upcoming school year, visit the Bossier Schools website at www.bossierschools.org