Only 2 parish private schools participate in voucher program
Some students from public schools eligible to attend Sacred Heart, Boutte Christian
Under the program some students who ordinarily would be going to St. Charles Parish Public Schools will get a chance to attend either Sacred Heart in Norco or Boutte Christian Academy under the state’s expanded school voucher program.
The application period for the program opened May 22 and will end June 29. Parents who would like to fill out an application can do so in person by visiting any participating private school or by downloading an application from www.louisianaschools.net.
However, parents will not be applying directly to the private school of their choice. Those who apply will select their top five choices and will be awarded a scholarship only through a random lottery.
Under the program, 5,100 scholarships are available statewide to students who meet income limits and are currently residing in the attendance zone of a C, D or F rated school or who attended a Nonpublic Schools Early Childhood Development (NSECD) pre-kindergarten program.
Preference is given to those living in the attendance zones of D and F schools and those who have a sibling attending a participating private school.
St. Charles Parish students living in the attendance zones of Albert Cammon Middle School, Allemands Elementary School, Luling Elementary School, Norco Elementary School 4-6, R.J. Vial Elementary School, R.K. Smith Middle School and St. Rose Elementary School will be eligible for the scholarships.
Felicia Gomez, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools and Quality Assurance, said that it appears students entering the school system for the first time will not be limited by the school attendance zone residence requirement.
"Our understanding is that any student entering kindergarten will have the opportunity to, if they meet certain criteria, be provided with what is called a scholarship," Gomez said.
Despite the opportunity to expand enrollment some private schools are not participating in the program. Mary G. Schmidt, Principal of St. Charles Borromeo in Destrehan, said the school decided not to participate, but she did not want to divulge the school’s reasoning.
"Our pastor in consultation with the school board and principal made that decision," Schimdt said. "Well, there’s multiple reasons, but our decision was just to pass on the vouchers this year."
Private schools in St. Charles Parish that are accepting applications include Boutte Christian Academy (BCA) and Sacred Heart of Jesus in Norco.
Kim Babineux, administrator at BCA, said her school is welcoming a limited number of students in kindergarten, second and third grades for the fall semester. Babineux said she expects the bulk of the students entering under the program will be coming from the school’s pre-kindergarten program.
"The voucher program gives preference to the pre-K children that participate in the NSECD pre-K program and we run that program here at our school," Babineux said. "So we anticipate many of our students getting vouchers are actually going to be children that were with us in pre-K and that they will be awarded the voucher if they are income eligible."
Babineux said she is particularly happy that students who are accepted under the program will have their scholarships automatically renewed each year.
"People are excited and it is a good opportunity. What we’ve learned is that the voucher is not just a one-year voucher," Babineux said. "As long as the family continues to qualify our understanding is that the voucher stays with the child as long as they continue at your school."
Babineux said in the end the program just adds another element to the local education spectrum.
"I will just say that we are blessed in this parish to have a very strong public school and very strong private and parochial schools," Babineux said. "It is a very unique situation and all of our private and parochial schools have been here many years and have a very strong academic reputation so I think we are just blessed.
"We never have anything negative to say about our public school counterparts because we are all in the same business of educating children."
Private schools in surrounding parishes who are participating in the scholarship program include Ascension of Our Lord, Our Lady of Grace, St. Charles Catholic High and St. Joan of Arc Catholic School in St. John the Baptist Parish; Holy Rosary Catholic School, Holy Savior Catholic, St. Genevieve School, St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School and St. Mary’s Nativity School in Lafourche Parish; and Faith Christian Academy, Heritage Academy, Islamic School of Greater New Orleans, New Orleans Jewish Day School, Our Lady of Divine Providence School, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Prompt Succor School, Ridgewood Preparatory School, St. Agnes School, St. Angela Merici School, St. Anthony School and St. Mary Magdalen School in Jefferson Parish.
For a comprehensive list of all of the state’s participating private schools and public school ratings visit www.louisianaschools.net.
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