Welcome back, students!

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Sun City Elementary School celebrated the first day of school in a fun way! The school won a Facebook contest to have a sign placed in front of their school for students to take pictures at. The contest and sign were by SignGypsies - Benton North Bossier. Pictured (left to right) are Leilani Tran, 3rd grade; Emma Grayson, 3rd grade; Cimora Johnson, 3rd grade; Gabriel Silvas, 2nd grade; Principal Kim Tuminello; Sorayah Thomas, 2nd grade; Kaidyn Duggan, 2nd grade; Peyton Bailey, 2nd grade; and Colby Donaldson, 2nd grade.

The 2016-17 school year is officially underway in Bossier Parish.

Students in grade first through 12th ventured back into the classroom Monday for the first full day back. It was an exciting start to the year when Bossier Schools announced that the Louisiana Department of Education has once again singled out Bossier Schools for student performance on 2016 Advanced Placement (AP) exams, identifying it as a top-growth district for overall participation in challenging college-level courses as well as its increased percentage of test takers achieving qualifying scores.

Two high schools were acknowledged for their exemplary marks. Benton High’s School Performance Growth in 2013 (27 qualifying scores) versus 2016 (112 qualifying scores) reflects a 315-percent increase, with the State Average Performance Growth being 66-percent.  Airline High’s School Performance Growth in 2013 (69 qualifying scores) versus 2016 (213 qualifying scores) represents an increase of 209-percent, with the State Average Performance Growth being 66-percent.

Other successes noted were nearly a third of Bossier students taking 2016 AP exams received a qualifying score of three or higher, earning them college credit. This represents an increase of 252-percent since 2013, ranking Bossier 4th in Louisiana for State Average Performance Growth. Bossier Schools ranks 8th in the state for the number of qualifying scores.

“This is no small accomplishment and our teachers and students deserve to be commended for their hard work,” said Bossier Schools Superintendent Scott Smith. “Not only did these students earn college credit while still in high school, but they continually prove they have what it takes to achieve at higher levels.”

AP opportunities were significantly expanded two years ago when Bossier Schools received a National Math and Science Initiative grant, made possible by the Department of Defense Educational Activity fund. The NMSI program also provided professional development and support for educators throughout the district.

“Anytime you improve student opportunity, you ultimately improve student success,” remarked Dr. Nichole Bourgeois, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum for Bossier Schools. “This is demonstrated in Bossier’s success over the past several years as AP courses are made available to every student at each of our high school campuses. Our plan is to stay the course and exceed these results as we begin a new school year.”

This news comes after an exciting summer filled with construction projects, administrative changes and growth throughout the parish. Preliminary enrollment numbers show Airline High School at just over 2,000 students. The school will be utilizing a brand new three-story classroom wing this year, a product of the 2012 bond referendum.

Airline’s campus is still a work in progress though. Construction crews are in the process of building the second three-story classroom wing and renovating the administrative office area and student media center. The existing administrative offices and library have been gutted and stripped down to make way for the new look that’s to come.

Until the projects are finished, the school has shifted classroom utilization to the north and south sides of the campus.

“I think we have a good plan of action in place,” Rowland said. “We’re going to have school with [the noise] and we’re going to get used to it. We’ve spent a whole year with it already.”

The new E wing is roughly two weeks ahead of schedule, Rowland said. They hope to have the administration offices and student media center complete by February 2017.

This summer, Bossier Schools also announced they would be launching Project SOAR (Supporting Opportunities for Achievement and Resilience), a five-year academic and mental health initiative that will benefit more than 6,700 students attending 11 schools across the district.

Project SOAR is aimed at expanding the arts while, at the same time, providing an additional tier of social and emotional support to military-connected children and their peers. It is being made possible thanks to a $1.5 million Department of Defense Education Activity grant.
Though Bossier Schools already places a strong emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Project SOAR will enable the district to further prepare children for the 21st century global workforce by integrating arts into the curriculum and exploring STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math).

Project SOAR will expose students to cross-curricular, problem-based learning activities developed for the classroom by Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, as well as STEAM days. Studies have shown the STEAM framework teaches students how to think critically, problem solve and use creativity, poising them to be highly skilled, knowledge-based workers in the future.

Each school included in the grant will also receive $40,000 to use toward technology and additional resources for art supplies and materials for their counselor. Those schools are: Apollo, Bellaire, Curtis, Kingston, Legacy, R.V. Kerr, Stockwell Place, Sun City, Waller and W.T. Lewis Elementary Schools and Cope Middle School.

Families whose children attend one of 15 Bossier Parish schools will reap extensive savings during the 2016-17 academic year, thanks to a federal program that will provide free breakfast and lunch each day regardless of household income.

Bossier Schools’ Child Nutrition Program is partnering with the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) to provide over 7,500 students with a healthy breakfast and lunch each day at no charge.
 The only requirement is for a child to be enrolled at one of the following Bossier Parish Schools: Bossier Elementary, Bossier High, Butler Educational Complex, Carrie Martin Elementary, Central Park Elementary, Elm Grove Elementary, Greenacres Middle, Kerr Elementary, Meadowview Elementary, Plain Dealing High, Plantation Park Elementary, Platt Elementary, T.O. Rusheon Middle, T.L. Rodes Elementary and Waller Elementary.

The Community Eligibility Program (CEP) provides an opportunity for schools in high poverty areas to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students without the burden of collecting and processing school meal applications for free and reduced price meals. The program also alleviates children from being labeled in the lunch line as low-income because no student incurs charges for meals.

All kindergarten students will start Monday, Aug. 15.

Employees returned Aug. 1, marking the first day for more than 130 new educators to the school system. Their first assignment was attending a New Teacher Orientation in which they were given an overview of Bossier Schools, heard from Superintendent Scott Smith and participated in curriculum breakout sessions. They were then treated to a luncheon at Hilton Garden Inn, courtesy of Bossier Chamber of Commerce, where educators were inspired by motivational speaker Scott Muscutt, General Manager of the Shreveport/Bossier Mudbugs hockey team.

The Bossier Sheriff’s Office is encouraging all motorists to be mindful of school zones and school bus safety as children return to school Monday in Bossier Parish.  With safety of children a primary concern for the Bossier Sheriff’s Office, patrol deputies will be out and about monitoring school zones in the parish to ensure motorists are being safe and are in compliance with the law.

Here are a few safety tips and legal reminders as the school year begins in Bossier Parish:

*It is important to allow yourself more time to get to work as traffic may be a little more congested due to school zones and buses picking up children for school.

*Please remember school buses make frequent stops to pick up children.

*School buses stop at all railroad crossings.

*All vehicles must stop no less than 30 feet from a school bus that is loading or unloading children, whether you are meeting the bus or traveling behind the bus.  When a school bus is stopped in opposite lanes on a roadway separated by a ditch, grassy median, elevated concrete barrier or any obstacle that prevents traffic from driving thereon, you are not required to stop.  Drivers must stop, however, for a stopped school bus when traveling on four lane or five lane roadways which are not separated by any barriers.  You must not proceed until the bus moves again or the visual warning signals are no longer activated.

*Pay attention to the school zone speed limits.

*Be mindful of children crossing the street where school crossing guards are located.

*Cell phones in school zones: Motorists are prohibited from using any type of hand-held wireless communications device while traveling through school zones during posted hours. The law includes use of cellular/wireless devices for engaging in a voice call, accessing, reading, or posting to a social networking site, and/or writing, sending, or reading a text-based communication. The school zone cell phone ban does not apply if the device is being used to report an emergency, is being used in a hands-free manner, or while the vehicle is lawfully parked.

“We encourage all motorists to slow it down in school zones and be watchful of children walking to bus stops and gathering for pickup and drop-off,” said Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington.  “We are looking forward to another great school year, and that starts with motorists being mindful of school zones and school buses carrying our children.  Our deputies will be paying close attention to school zones and the safe operation of vehicles throughout Bossier Parish near these schools,” added Whittington.