Ascension School Board to modify districts

Change is coming to the boundaries of the Ascension Parish School Board districts.

The board on Tuesday made its first public presentation on potential changes to districts, as mandated every decade following U.S. census changes. Due to rapid growth in the northwestern portion of the parish, several districts likely will undergo radical changes.

District 4, which is bordered by the western parish line north of the Mississippi River and extends over to Airline Highway in Prairieville, faces the biggest forthcoming shift.

Due to several precincts that saw greater than 130 percent growth during the past decade, the district as currently constructed has 7,368 residents more than allowed.

Kerry Diez and John Murphy represent District 4 on the board. The 11-member board has three districts served by one member and four districts represented by two members.

District 5, consisting of the Prairieville area east of Airline Highway to Port Vincent, also saw a large population growth between the 2000 census and the 2010 census.

“The growth has not been evenly distributed,” said John Diez, a consultant with Magellan Strategies hired by the board to assist in redistricting. “Sixty to 65 percent of the growth has occurred in the Prairieville area.”

John Diez presented board members and the public with population information as well as the ideal sizes for the new districts.

According to the parish’s population of 107,215 residents, single-member districts would have an ideal population of 9,747 residents with dual-member districts having an optimum population of 19,494.

Redistricting guidelines allow for a 5 percent deviation above or below those figures, giving a range of 9,260 to 10,234 for single-member districts and 18,519 to 20,469 for dual-member districts, he said.

District 4’s current configuration includes 27,837 residents, while District 5 has 20,992.

Districts 6 and 7, which consist of parts of Gonzales and the St. Amant areas, have not grown at the same rate as the rest of the parish and will need to gain residents. Both districts have around 16,400 residents.

Jamie Bourgeois and Lorraine Wimberly represent District 6; Troy Gautreau and Pat Russo represent District 7.

John Diez was available Tuesday to answer questions from the public, though nobody commented during a public hearing.

Gautreau, the School Board’s president, said board members have discussed three scenarios of how to proceed, and he believes a consensus is emerging.

The board still must have two more public hearings on the matter before settling on a final option and sending it forward to the U.S. Justice Department for confirmation prior to the end of the year.

“It’s still real early,” Gautreau said. “We’re just trying to get it fleshed out.”