Bossier schools attendance zoning plan to affect hundreds of students

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The Bossier Parish School Board approved Thursday a new student attendance zone plan for the 2020-2021 school year that will see hundreds of students change schools.

Resulting from a desegregation lawsuit filed in 1964 in Shreveport, the Bossier Parish School Board has been mandated to revise school attendance zones.

With 22,859 students attending Bossier Parish Schools, 371 of those students will be moved to a different school under the new attendance zone plan.

Within the new zoning plan, Parkway and Haughton High School zones will remain the same. But Airline High School, Bossier High School and some elementary school zones will be affected.

School Board Attorney Bob Hammonds and demographer Mike Hefner presented a plan at the school board meeting to redraw the lines for elementary, middle and high school zones.

Hammonds says the plan accomplishes mandated goals and representatives of the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) have tentatively accepted the plan. He said it is a better alternative than leaving it up to the DoJ.

“The plan has a 100 percent feeder pattern plan, and students will matriculate with their fellow students from pre-K to high school,” Hammonds said. “If the Department of Justice came forward with a plan, I can assure you that more than 371 students in the whole parish would be impacted.” 

Hammonds also noted that the purposed plan is to:

  • Maximize racial diversity.
  • Minimize the use of temporary buildings.
  • Reduce student transportation times and distances.
  • Eliminate split school zones.
  • Anticipate future demographic changes in determining student capacities within the schools.

Knowing this decision will impact the lives of students and parents, Bossier Parish Schools Superintendent Mitch Downey said he and the board will “work with parents and try to make this as least impactful as we can.”

Several board members said they do not support this rezoning plan and know as parents themselves how the parents who will be affected by this change will feel. 

But ultimately they will vote in favor of the plan because a federal court is requiring racial diversity in Bossier Schools be addressed.

“There’s not a person sitting up here that wants to do this,” said Bossier Parish School Board President Shane Cheatham. “I don’t want to vote ‘yes’ for this. I don’t want to change these children’s lives. But I also know that it’s something that, unfortunately, we have to do.”

Students are assigned to schools based on their residential addresses in accordance with student attendance zones. The School Board is required to obtain federal court approval before it can make changes to a student attendance zone plan.

In the last 10 years, the School Board has requested and obtained permission from the court to amend its student attendance zones primarily because of the need for new construction in the parish.

The DoJ ordered all school attendance zones in Bossier Parish be re-examined and a joint proposal submitted by March 1, 2019 to revise the existing school attendance zones. In the absence of an agreement on those zones, both the school board and the DoJ would be required to submit its own proposal to the Court for consideration on or before April 1, 2019. By agreement of the parties, the Court delayed those dates to Sept. 16, 2019 and Oct. 16, 2019, respectively.

With the approved plan from the school board, it will now be submitted to the court for final approval.

For more information to see if your child’s school was affected, please click https://www.bossierschools.org/pf4/cms2/news_themed_display?id=1565602925624