Superintendent apologizes to bus drivers, board institutes delayed start policy for severe weather days

Published 8:42 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Calcasieu Parish School Board has voted to institute a delayed start policy for severe weather days.

CPSB held a special meeting on Tuesday to address the April 10 weather event and recommend procedures moving forward.

A few weeks ago, the Calcasieu Parish school district kept schools open despite oncoming severe weather. The decision angered CPSB stakeholders due to communication breakdowns and the danger students, teachers, parents and bus drivers faced in the morning hours of April 10.

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At the regular CPSB meeting on April 16, the boardroom was packed with those wanting to express their concerns and criticism; however, the meeting agenda did not include an item addressing the weather event, meaning attendees were not able to voice their concerns. The board did not unanimously agree to add an appropriate item to the agenda, but stated the event would be discussed at a later date.

At the special meeting on Tuesday, the school district recommended several changes to optimize severe weather procedures, but a delayed start option policy will be the “most significant and impactful,” said Superintendent Shannon LaFargue.

On school days with a delayed start, school will begin at 10 a.m. LaFargue said a delayed start will be considered in cases including, but not limited to, brief severe weather events, cold weather and frozen precipitation. The release time for each school will remain the same.

Families, students and staff will be informed by 9 p.m. if a delayed start is necessary. If the decision is to be delayed in the morning, communication will occur at 5 a.m.

Students who ride the bus should be brought to their designated bus stop exactly two hours later than normal on delayed start days. Students will receive a modified breakfast on delayed start days.

Alternative sites will have virtual school days when a delayed start is instituted.

Families can choose to keep their children at home if they feel the weather is too severe. This policy was previously instituted.

The delayed start policy was approved with a vote of 11-1, with Betty Washington, District 7, voting in opposition.

Each school year the school district receives four emergency days. The Calcasieu Parish school district has used five and a half emergency days during the 2023-24 school year. To account for the excess emergency days, the board also approved a change to the school calendar that would add a day and a half for students to the end of the school year if the Louisiana Department of Education decided to not waive the missing school hours.

Phyllis Ayo, District 11, Mary “Sister” Fontenot, District 4, and Damon Hardesty, District 9, were not present for the meeting.


At the special meeting, several stakeholders spoke about their experiences during the severe weather event to the board and CPSB district officials.

During her testimony, Terri Johnson with the Calcasieu Federation of Teachers and School Employees commended the board for putting new policies in place, but requested that LaFargue directly apologize to the school bus drivers in attendance.

“I think as a representative of our community … I think if you address them directly tonight that it will go a long way.”

LaFargue stood up and obliged: “I let you down. No one can say anything tonight more than I am disappointed in myself. I hurt you, and it is my fault, and I take full responsibility. And for me and the way I grew up, when you say you take responsibility, it means you apologize. It means you care. It means everything that goes into that. Because I have a sign in my office that says ‘Blame no one. Expect nothing. Do something.’ I’m not blaming anybody, and I don’t expect anybody to just give me something that I haven’t earned, because I haven’t earned your trust. But I’m going to do something about it tonight. … No matter whatever happens to me, from this point forward this district is going to be better because our staff made a commitment, and because you voiced your opinion. … This will never happen again, and you are the most valuable people. … Bus drivers, you’re the first person every morning that a kid gets to see, and you bus drivers, you know how much I care about you. … I take full responsibility, and everything that goes with that is an apology. It is a promise that we’re going to get better. We’re going to grow, for you, for the kids, for the community and CPSB.”