Some school choice students in Jefferson scramble to find transportation

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wwltv.com

Posted on August 3, 2012 at 6:24 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 3 at 6:45 PM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Email: mrodriguez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mrodriguezwwl

JEFFERSON, La.-- Lettie Brown is set to start her sophomore year at Riverdale High School next week. On Thursday, though, her mother got a message, which put that in jeopardy.

The voicemail from the Jefferson Parish School District said, in part, "they will not provide transportation for your child to and from school."

"Which is a big problem because I live on the Westbank," said Tarshia Robinson, Lettie's mother.

Her daughter is zoned to go to John Ehret High School on the Westbank. However, the school's poor test scores last year gave Lettie the chance to go to a better school, through the School Choice Program. She chose Riverdale, where she's now on the basketball team and the honor roll.

"It's an excellent school. The principal, the faculty, they're great," Robinson said. "We've been very upset, since we've gotten the phone call, because it is the 11th hour. School starts next Thursday."

So what changed? The Jefferson Parish School District said the state just released the latest performance scores for schools. Four schools improved enough to come off the school choice list: Bonnabel, Grace King, West Jefferson and John Ehret. The State Department of Education says they released those scores last week, after adding new calculated summer scores.

"School choice parents were informed last year that once the school was no longer in need of improvement, their child could remain at the school of choice until he or she graduates. However, transportation would no longer be provided," said Monica Pierre, a spokesperson for the Jefferson Parish School District.

Late Friday, state officials responded. “The Department thinks this is a violation of the law and we are working to address this with the district,” said Barry Landry, press secretary for the Louisiana Department of Education.

Now parents and some school administrators -- like Riverdale Principal Denise Carpenter -- are working to find a way for the affected students to get to the school they have been attending.

"The majority live on the Westbank and so, of course, the river is a natural boundary," said Carpenter, whose school has about 60 School Choice students. "They just don't have the availability of being able to get to Riverdale, without some sort of transportation."

One of the ideas they are working on is a possible carpool system or hiring a van or short bus.

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