Bossier Schools hosted a town hall meeting Tuesday evening, addressing child nutrition, transportation and planning and construction in an open, public forum.
Karla Horton, supervisor of child nutrition, discussed the district’s food services. With 250 employees, the system serves breakfast and lunch at 34 locations — a total of about 15,000 meals per day.
Horton said the main challenges her department faces are retaining part-time employees, absences, regulatory compliance — and meal debts.
“It is a national problem,” Horton said about past due meal debts. “In Bossier Parish, in August 2018, there was a zero balance. It was zeroed out. Last year at this time it was $50,000. We are now sitting at $67,000. We are stopping the bleeding. We are doing everything that we can.”
Horton said notices are sent out to delinquent accounts twice a month, texts are sent with balances and reminders and phone calls are made to households with large balances.
“A lot of people have the misconception that you don’t have to pay your lunch bills. But it is not an option. Those bills need to be paid,” Horton added.
Lt. Col. David Hadden, director of transportation, spoke about Bossier Schools’ efforts at transporting students to and from school. He said the system runs 232 buses per day on about 700 routes. By next year, about 70% of the buses will be air conditioned, Hadden added.
Traffic congestion continues to be an issue.
“If [a school bus wants] to make a left hand turn in Bossier City in the morning and you’re not a light, it’s probably not going to happen,” Hadden said. “No one is going to let that yellow bus in.”
Hadden said that on Barksdale Boulevard alone, one bus has turned in 60 complaints of drivers passing a stopped school bus with it’s ‘Stop’ arms out.
“Sixty times. One time is too many,” Hadden said.
Keith Norwood, supervisor of planning and construction for Bossier Schools, discussed district facilities, noting that parish buildings have an average age “of about 50 years,” with some that are “80 or 90 years old or more.”
“One thing that I think is a real milestone for Bossier is, this year we’re removing almost all of our remaining t-buildings from the three schools that have had them either the most or the longest, or both — Sun City Elementary, Benton Middle and the former Benton High School,” Norwood said.
When asked about rumors of a new school in Benton, Norwood replied:
“We currently have three or four sites that we had obtained for potential future school sites. One is next to the South Bossier Park, one is next to Turtle Creek [in Benton for an] elementary [school], one is near Vanceville Road and 4900 Benton Road. We are always aware of that need. I would like to find another elementary school site potentially for the Haughton area, as they grow. We try to plan ahead. It’s difficult always to know where the need is going to occur first but we’re watching that very closely.”