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Audio: For some students at New Orleans’ best schools, just getting there is a challenge

Amelia Slep-Patterson waits for the bus in Algiers at the start of her long trip to school. Between the dark bus stop and the early-morning walk down Canal, she said she has to on guard.

Della Hasselle / The Lens

Amelia Slep-Patterson waits for the bus in Algiers at the start of her long trip to Lusher Charter School in Uptown New Orleans. Between the dark bus stop and the early-morning walk down Canal, she said she has to be on guard.

New Orleans schools take students from all over the city, but not every school provides yellow bus transportation.

Of the seven A schools in the city, just one buses its students. The rest generally provide public transportation tokens for students who need it.

That means some students fortunate enough to get into one of the best schools must take hours-long rides on public transportation, making them and their parents uneasy.


Correction: This post originally misspelled Cristiane Wijngaarde’s name. (Nov. 16, 2013)

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About Della Hasselle

Della Hasselle, a freelance journalist and producer, reports environmental and criminal justice stories for The Lens. A graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Hasselle lived in New York for 10 years. While up north, she produced and anchored news segments, wrote feature stories and reported breaking news for, a hyperlocal news site. Before that, she worked at the New York Daily News. She obtained her master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She can be reached at (917) 304-6121.

  • nickelndime

    Hey Della! Good topic, but I have not listened to the audio. However, for the sake of “print,” how about printing what the seven “A” schools are, and my comment is this: If the 7 “A” schools are either “direct-run” or “charters” of the Orleans Parish School Board, and only one provides transportation, then why aren’t the feds giving more weight to parental and others’ (e.g., VAYLA) complaints that this is an unfair obstacle for students and families who rely on public education?!

  • Della Hasselle

    Hi! Thanks for your interest. To answer your questions, the “A” charter schools that fall under Orleans Parish School Board are (in alphabetical order): Audubon Charter School, Benjamin Franklin High School, Edward Hynes Charter School, Lake Forest Elementary Charter School and Lusher Charter School. Two other state-authorized schools received “A” grades this year, too — International School of Louisiana and New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Stay tuned, because The Lens has more to report on transportation and school performance scores.

  • nickelndime

    Thanks, Della. Great! Now that’s what I call a quick response. The picture of Amelia is terrific. “One picture is worth a thousand words.” BTW, I hope “Christiane Wijngaarde, parent of former Ben Franklin student” is included in your future story on transportation. If I remember correctly, she is affiliated with VAYLA (formerly a parent liaison with Einstein Charter – one of the OPSB schools included in a federal complaint filed this year). VAYLA has voiced transportation concerns before, and in my opinion, the federal feds should pay more attention to public school systems that ignore transportation services, among other things, e.g. equal access.

  • Karran Royal

    I’m glad you did this story. Transportation has long been a concern of mine. After Katrina Lusher told me that they didn’t have to provide transportation because they were a charter school now. I sued, and all OPSB Charters and to provide transportation once their charter was renewed. Prior to that, OPSB provided the yellow bus transportation my son needed in elementary school. At that time, I could not get Lusher parents to avail themselves to that same transportation. I didn’t mind my son being on the bus with Franklin Elementary or Mc Main students. Transportation to highly ranked schools levels the playing field for students like Amelia and others whose families can’t afford a private bus. Even now, Lusher only provides bus tokens. What elementary school parent will put their kid on an RTA bus across town? This is something that needs to be corrected if we really want to make sure children are not trapped in failing schools.

  • nickelndime

    What irks me is that even when these OPSB-authorized charter schools’ charters are renewed (and the operating agreements stipulate that the charter schools will/shall provide transportation), these nonprofit boards and management continue to find loopholes and not provide transportation (allocating $6.00 per student in the budget and bus tokens don’t cut it). And just to keep their children in these sought-after schools, most parents will remain silent and grin and bear it until their child(ren) graduate. The OPSB does not enforce anything because they do not want to rock the boat, and they are trying to entice eligible schools to return to local control at any cost – i.e., “hands-off” policy (not the only reasons – there are other problems). So, the burden gets put on the parents to be the “bad guy,” “the squeaking wheel,” the troublemaker,” etc. The OPSB gives waivers, reverses its own policies, and is generally remiss in its duties and responsibilities to properly enforce what is written in the operating agreements when charters are renewed. In another example, Einstein (open admission, a “B” school), one campus (the ICS takeover) has transporation, and the other campus doesn’t. The legal operating agreement loophole? The language. Instead of using the word, “MUST,” it uses “shall” or “will.” Come on, OPSB! Do individuals, such as Ms. Royal, have to sue to get some action? Does VAYLA have to file federal complaints (albeit, the complaint didn’t involve transportation) to be heard?

  • JCL

    One other factor to remember is that these “A” rated schools are able to devote more resources toward other items when they don’t have to pay for transportation. If all the schools in the city could slash transportation from their budget, their grades might rise, too. It’s just one other example of how schools’ grades are more than just a reflection of the abilities of their students and teachers.

  • HGS

    Landrieu’s budget director, Cary Grant, suggested that the libraries get another 1 to 1.5 mills by taking away an equivalent amount from the parish public schools. Grant said each mill is worth about $3 million. He said the schools have a “huge fund balance” because their 44 mills pay for only 33 schools now, down from 120 schools before Hurricane Katrina.* From Tyler Bridges, Nov. 12 article
    Why can’t this money go toward buses?

  • George Vourvoulias

    I don’t understand why there aren’t community schools in New Orleans. By that I mean a school for each community or area that is solely for the children of that community or area. A public school is as much a part of that particular neighborhood/community as a police station, a firehouse, a library, or a public park. In such a system the citizens of each neighborhood would have more of a direct stake in each school, whether they have children at school or not. This would benefit the public school system as a whole.

    All children should be able to walk or ride a bike to their schools–thereby reducing the amount of resources necessary to transport children. These resources could be better used within the school to teach and train the children. This also would reduce carbon emissions, pollution and fuel consumption with a goal to becoming a more sustainable and green city. Further, it seems to me that the citizens of each neighborhood would be in contact with the children going to and fro on a regular basis leading to a greater sense of community and place.

  • nickelndime

    I can’t wait to see the complete analysis by THE LENS on the correlation, etc. between transportation (or NOT!) and school performance scores (SPS) and the variables. Transportation (or the lack of) is only one of the loopholes being used by certain schools (open-admission, selective-admission, direct-run) to limit accessibility for all students who reside throughout this city. Unfortunately, the OPSB will not correct this voluntarily.

  • scotchirish

    This family is in breach of their social contract’s obligations to place more fortunate children in classrooms with the less fortunate.

  • nickelndime

    You are absolutely correct, scotchirish. IMO, there are breaches all over the place and it is completely out of control. It appears, however, that the only thing we can do is talk about it.

  • SPEDteacher

    How did Andrew Shahan end up with a million dollar grant to buy busses when the conditions at ARISE are deplorable and special education is out of compliance? Transportation is important, but providing quality services to kids who need them the most should come before grandiose bus purchases for a network of 2 schools.

  • nickelndime

    Hey SPEDteacher. Thank you for speaking up. I was wondering who else is watching those yellow buses scooting around town. I saw an ARISE bus today. This entire thing is out of control. Non-compliance issues abound. Ayn’t no special needs student being provided with a FAPE (that’s for sure)! BUT, out-of-control, high-priced, unqualified, and uncertified administrators (according to the State of Louisiana), who will do what they they are told and when they are told (how high?), because others are collecting huge “federale” BUCKS ON THE BACKS of the poor people in this city (with limited choices), ABOUND. Billions (of dollars in federal money) flow to particular nonprofits (e.g., NSNO – not the only one, b/c remember, BESE has approved those few favorite CMOs, such as FirstLine – Hello, Stephen Rosenthal (brother of Leslie Jacobs), Jay Altman, Mickey Landry…) who appear to be in it for the long haul – until somebody stops the carnage. Academics and student services are low priority. This is big bucks. The last frontier, baby.