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Lycée changes plans for ‘zoo school’ transportation

Officials at Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans have a new transportation plan for some students going to “zoo school,” CEO Keith Bartlett said at a board Governance and Compliance Committee meeting Thursday morning.

The French-education school had initially rented space from the Audubon Zoo in 2011, before moving into its current location at 5951 Patton St. After Lycée Français moved, the school kept a close tie to the zoo, and has had “zoo school” classes ever since.

This year, third and first graders from Lycée Français are cycling through the zoo school program, during which wildlife educators present animals, teach lessons on wetlands, create puppet shows and plant gardens. According to the Audubon Zoo, each grade will spend four weeks using the zoo as a classroom.

But this year, students in the program may sometimes have to take the public bus to get back to the Patton Street campus for aftercare if they aren’t picked up by parents at the zoo.

In prior years, parents would volunteer to bring students back to the school in their cars if guardians didn’t show up at the zoo to pick them up.

But the carpooling was described as an “unaddressed compliance issue,” and was brought up during the meeting Thursday.

“It was the neighborly thing to do, but not the wisest thing to do, given the climate of the city,” Bartlett told The Lens.

Now, parents have to sign a consent form that Bartlett presented to the committee Thursday. The form states that “under ordinary circumstances” students will walk back to the Patton Street campus from the zoo, supervised by a Lycee staff member, if parents don’t pick up their kids at the zoo first.

On days of inclement weather, the form asks for children to have permission to take the RTA bus or the Audubon Zoo Shuttle with a staff member to get back to the school.

At the meeting, board member Alysson Mills called Bartlett’s solution “excellent problem solving.”

In a separate action, Mills also mentioned that there was no official policy on public comment during board meetings.

After some discussion, the committee decided to bring up the issue at the next board meeting, and ask the public their thoughts on good procedures for public comment.

“A proper board has a good public comment policy to rely on so they don’t change the rules every time,” Mills said.

State law says that school boards “shall allow public comment at any meeting of the school board prior to taking any vote.”

The law specifically says the comment period has to come before each agenda item on which the board will take a vote.

Earlier this year, the New Beginnings Schools Foundation , which operates several charter schools, received a “notice of concern” from the state Department of Education for ignoring that provision of the law.

Aside from Mills and Bartlett, Ben Castoriano, Joseph Hugg and Michael Higgins were at the meeting.

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  • Michael Pinkerton

    The Board will solicit public comment on the best procedure for soliciting public comment? Now that’s transparency!