Lafayette Parish School System students began returning to school Thursday, marking the first "normal" start to a school year since 2019.
On the eve of the first day of school, Asst. Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Mark Rabalais told school board members that the district's LEAP scores indicated a strong rebound from the pandemic.
The discussion of LEAP scores came during the board's final meeting before students began returning to campuses Thursday. LPSS Superintendent Irma Trosclair praised the work of district employees on the LEAP scores during a year marred by pandemic-related regulations and uncertainty.
Trosclair, who was named the full-time superintendent just before COVID-19 became rampant in Louisiana during March 2020, said she is looking forward to "the first normal school year we've had in a while."
LPSS ready for 'normal' start to school
With many LPSS students returning to school Thursday and others beginning Friday or in the next week, Trosclair said that people in the community should be prepared to see school buses on the road and active school zones.
Half of LPSS K-12 students reported Thursday, and the other half will report Friday. All students will begin going at the same time on Monday.
For pre-kindergarten, girls will report on Monday and Tuesday, and boys will report on Wednesday and Thursday. All students will report on Aug. 19.
School board updates policies to reflect state law
The school board also voted to update several of its policies to follow new requirements mandated by state law, including excused absences for parenting or expecting students, space and time for breastfeeding or pumping, and opportunities for voter registration.
Under the new policy, expecting or parenting students would be given excused absences for various types of appointments, children's illnesses or appointments, and legal obligations like visitation or custody hearings.
Schools are also required to provide time and a private place for students to breastfeed or pump if needed.
The new policies also reflected a new state law prohibiting discrimination based on natural, protective or cultural hairstyles.
School board, superintendent praise LEAP scores
Despite the challenges of the past few school years, the 2022 LEAP scores showed strong improvement across the district, Rabalais said in his presentation to the board. More than 90% of Lafayette Parish School System schools showed improvement on their LEAP scores.
"We are fortunate that our teachers, our school leaders, district staff have put in the work coming out of the pandemic that our students are, in many cases, in better standing than they were prior to the COVID pandemic," Trosclair said.
LPSS ranked first among Louisiana districts with 30,000 or more students for the number of students who improved to mastery or above from 2021 to 2022, and ranked in the top 10 of all Louisiana districts for one-year mastery or above growth.
All grade levels saw improvement from the prior year's LEAP test, and the district improved in all grade 3-8 test subjects.
Two LPSS schools were also recognized by the state for their LEAP scores. Myrtle Place Elementary School had the highest one-year growth rate for mastery or above in the state, and Early College Academy was in the top 10 for the percent of students scoring mastery or higher.
ECA had also been named the top school in the state in 2021.
Rabalais said the district has continued to see improvement among its students in special education programs. LPSS ranked sixth in the state for the percentage of students in special education programs scoring mastery or higher and ranked 13th for the one-year change of students scoring mastery or above.
"I think that's a phenomenal achievement," LPSS School Board President Tommy Angelle said of the LEAP scores. "This is a community effort, literally, and by that I mean I want to thank everyone involved."
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This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: LPSS ready for 'normal school year' after years of COVID regulations