Bossier Schools prepares for growth and celebrates accomplishments

With a new school year right around the corner, 2016-17 served as a great platform filled with growth and accomplishments for Bossier schools. 

In fact, Bossier Schools received great news this week when the Louisiana Department of Education’s 2017 Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) proficiency scores revealed Bossier Parish students  exceeded the state average of those scoring at Mastery level — standard for college and career readiness — or above in English Language Arts (ELA), math and science.

The percentage of Bossier Parish students that scored at Mastery or above in all three academic areas assessed on the LEAP was seven-percent higher than the state average; five-percent higher in ELA; seven-percent higher in math; and an impressive 10-percent higher in science.

Superintendent Scott Smith said he was elated by the scores and commend Bossier Parish educators for their commitment to identify every child’s strengths and weaknesses and position them for success.

“It is especially exciting to see the impact Bossier Schools’ strong emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills is having among students. We work in close partnership with our local cyber community, and by building the foundation in these areas, we are better preparing today’s student to command their future in tomorrow’s workforce.”

This follows other achievements such as a ‘B‘ district letter grade, the Dept. of Education singling out Bossier Schools for its student performance on 2016 AP exams, identifying it as a top-growth district; five schools were awarded the Path to Excellence designation by the Alliance for Education; Benton High was singled out by The College Board and designated a 2016 AP Program of Distinction; BPSTIL students won 31 medals at State SkillsUSA; 13 Bossier Parish teams won first place at the State Destination Imagination tournament; Airline High School’s Erin Bullock was a National Merit Scholar recipient and Noah Booker was a National Merit Scholar finalist; and Kingston Elementary fifth grader Zachary Cryer was named the 2017 Louisiana State Elementary Student of the Year among others.

More good news for the school district came earlier this summer when Bossier Schools announced it would tap $300,000 in interest each year from the Bossier Educational Excellence Fund (BEEF) to ease the financial burden on students and their families when it comes to offering higher learning opportunities to students in 2017-18.

In response to funding cuts and increased costs extended to students pursuing Advanced Placement (AP) courses, the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), Dual Enrollment credits and Industry Based Certifications (IBCs), the Bossier Parish School Board stepped in to ensure no child is left behind due to financial constraints.

“It will not be based on financial need, but rather extended to all students, leveling the playing field for those academically capable of pursuing these advanced learning opportunities,” said Finance Committee Chairman Eric Newman. 

Because of the schools’ reputation and Bossier’s other quality of life factors, Bossier Parish Schools is the fastest growing district in north Louisiana with 23,000 students and 3,600 employees.

“Dealing with construction projects and discussing where the money will go to ease those growing pains, that’s been a challenge,” Smith said. “North Bossier, south Bossier and Haughton are the three main growth areas. At the same time, we’re not losing students in our inner city schools. We’re actually seeing growth there. The only area we’re not seeing that growth is in Plain Dealing and we’re addressing that.”

Billie Jo Brotherton, Bossier Parish School Board District 1 representative, pointed out that Haughton is the second largest growth area in the parish.

“People continue to move out this way and they are clearing land for a 400 home subdivision right now. It’s not going to stop growing.”

This fall, new Haughton Middle School on Highway 3227 will become the district’s second largest school. The new middle school was built to specifically address growth, accommodating 1,500 students.

“I’m ecstatic,” Principal Richard Warren said. “The space for growth is exciting. It gives us the opportunity to meet the needs of the population as it grows out here in Haughton.  The town is booming and we have to keep up with that.”

Dist. 6 representative Glen Bullard said his north Bossier City district may be in the midst of “a phenomenon that’s almost impossible to quantify or measure.”

The Bossier Schools website says Airline High School is the largest high school in Bossier Parish and is near capacity, given the tremendous growth in the northern part of the parish.

“We’re seeing a transition in some of the larger residential areas that serve District 6. They are no longer housing ‘empty nesters.’ Those homes are now back on the market and being purchased by young professionals with young families,” Bullard said.

To accommodate a future student population of 2,000, the construction project at Airline is being done in a multi-phase approach. An initial phase to refurbish restrooms, the auditorium, the cafeteria and a new outdoor dining commons is finished. Construction on the new F wing is also finished and work has begun on the new E wing. There with renovations to the administration offices, media and lobby area.

Meanwhile, Bossier Parish School Board Dist. 3 representative Frank Kelly is making sure the school system is keeping up with Benton’s steady growth.

“We’ve had a study by our demographer that shows of all the growth in Bossier Parish, 62 percent of it is in the Benton High attendance zone,” Kelly said. “The previous board had the wisdom to use the demographer’s report and make plans based on what was projected.”

In a matter of months, Bossier Schools is poised to break ground on its largest project to date in the building of a new Benton High School. The estimated $45.5 million construction project, located at 449 Fairburn Avenue and Tiger Pride Drive in Benton, will be built on 70 acres with a projected opening date of fall 2019-20.

The new high school will include 69 classrooms, two gymnasiums and initially accommodate as many as 1,450 students. It will have the ability to increase its footprint to serve a student enrollment of 1,650 when deemed necessary.

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