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Photograph: St. Landry Parish President Jessie Bellard (Photo by Bobby Ardoin)

Editor/Contributing Writer

St. Landry Parish president Jessie Bellard is offering assistance without cost from his investigative staff for curbing parish wide school truancy and other rural campus issues that might affect the District.

Bellard made his presentation prior to the start of several committee meetings that were held Tuesday night.

Several parish government investigators ordinarily assigned to animal control, are also trained as resource officers, Bellard said.

“We’re here to help (the District). The parish right now has additional resources and facilities that we also plan to use in order to get the kids involved in different activities. We have activities that we are planning for the Ag Arena that can also be used as a way to get kids interested in things that could help them along the way,” Bellard said.

Bellard said that if truancy becomes an issue in areas outside the incorporated limits, that he and his investigators would be able to potentially assist school officials with getting habitually absent students back into the classroom.

“We (parish investigators) have the authority to issue citations and we can use our resources to service these citations. All of this can be handled by parish government at no cost (to the District),” said Bellard.

Dwanetta Scott, supervisor of Child Welfare and Attendance, said that truancy and other matters associated with non-attendance are normally handled inside the city limits by Opelousas City Court.

Scott added that the District is diligent in tracking school attendance, by noting the number of student absences and handing over the deficiencies to building level administrators and school officials.

Board member Kyle Boss said that intervention with school absences is important. Boss pointed to a situation in the Cankton area last year where persistence from school officials and St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz and his deputies with a chronically absent student helped eventually turn around the student’s academic performance.

The District also pays the Sheriff’s Department about $80,000 annually to provide school security and resource officers at rural school sites.

Also the Board recently agreed to pay the Opelousas Police Department $31,000 for a school resource officer for schools in Opelousas.