First-grade, kindergarten students eyed
ZACHARY — The Zachary Community School District agreed Thursday to accept 30 students eligible for state-funded vouchers next school year because they attend low-performing schools in other districts.
Superintendent Warren Drake said Zachary, because of its academic standing in the state accountability program as an A-rated district, can accept students who normally would attend C-, D- and F-rated schools.
Drake recommended allowing 15 outside kindergarten students next school year at Northwestern Elementary School and 15 first-graders at the new Rollins Place Elementary School, which is under construction.
Zachary first-grade students will continue to attend Northwestern Elementary until the new school is finished next school year.
Drake said the district should step forward to participate in the student scholarship program the Legislature approved earlier this month “because, as good as our teachers are, we should try to help some kids.”
Curriculum and Instruction Director Michelle Clayton said Zachary has the “staff and resources to make a difference for these kids.”
Families will begin applying to the state Department of Education for the voucher program in May, and the state will choose the voucher recipients through a lottery system by July 31, Drake said.
Students must meet income guidelines, and their families must provide them with transportation to the Zachary schools.
Drake said students who would normally attend D and F schools will be given priority in the selection process. Only A- and B-rated schools may accept the state-sponsored students, the superintendent said.
Zachary will get about $4,000 for each student enrolled, Drake said. Zachary spent about $9,900 per student in the 2009-10 school year, according to a state Education Department report.
Students in the neighboring East Feliciana and Baker school systems will be eligible to apply, provided they meet the income guidelines.
West Feliciana Parish’s schools also are eligible to accept students from other districts, but Superintendent Hollis G. Milton said Thursday the district has no plans “at this time” to participate.
The students’ test scores will not count for Zachary in the state accountability program but will go back to their home districts, Drake said.
The students will not be identified as being supported by the vouchers, Drake said.
“They will be ours,” he said.
Drake reminded the board that Zachary took in 300 students “overnight” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina “and I’m proud of that.”
“We can do this,” he said.