Zone changes proposed for four EBRP schools

Advocate file photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- New state law states that students cannot be dropped off or picked up at a location that requires them to cross a road or highway.
Advocate file photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- New state law states that students cannot be dropped off or picked up at a location that requires them to cross a road or highway.

An estimated 129 students are likely to change schools in August as a result of proposed attendance zone changes at four public elementary schools in Baton Rouge.

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board is set to vote on the proposed changes at Audubon, LaBelle Aire, Twin Oaks and Wedgewood elementary schools when it meets at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Carlos Sam, associate superintendent for school leadership, said the changes are driven by the need to limit overcrowding at Audubon Elementary, help fill empty seats at LaBelle Aire, and to improve the feeder patterns for all four schools.

When the same item came up at a May 2 committee meeting, all 11 board members recommended moving forward with the zone changes.

Board member Jill Dyason, who often pays close attention to attendance zone changes, said she found the proposed changes to these four schools “quite logical,” noting that they followed major natural boundaries and roads.

“I support when we bring kids closer to their homes, and this looks like it’s doing that,” Dyason said.

The process for the proposed zone shifts is much different from the last time the school system adjusted zones.

On March 21, the School Board reconfigured several schools but did not, as it had in the past, approve the resulting attendance zone maps. A couple of members said they were surprised when reassignment notices were mailed out to students days later.

The shifts ranged from more than 100 students at Mayfair Middle to about 300 students at Delmont Elementary.

At the May 2 “committee of the whole” meeting, Sam told board members that school officials have already presented the proposed new attendance zones for Audubon, LaBelle Aire, Twin Oaks and Wedgewood elementary schools to many of those affected.

“We’ve had some conversations with some parents and principals, and all agree this makes sense,” Sam said.

LaBelle Aire, which would get 72 new students from Twin Oaks elementary, was once a center for students for whom English is not their first language.

The school now has about 550 students, fewer than when that program was disbanded two years ago. As recently as 2008, the school had almost 800 students.

About $5.4 million of construction work is being done at LaBelle Aire. The work includes adding four new classrooms.

“This gives us a chance to repopulate this school at a proper level,” Sam told the board.

To replace students it is
losing to LaBelle Aire, Twin Oaks is receiving an estimated 34 students from Audubon
and 23 students from Wedgewood.

Sam said Audubon, which had 581 students enrolled on Oct. 1, will gain some space as a result of the shift.

“This relieves us of some overcrowding, particularly at Audubon Elementary School, especially in certain grades,” he said.