By Malcolm Butler
One of the secondary questions that has arisen from some Lincoln Parish residents is how will Buc-ee’s impact Ruston Junior High School.
The marquee travel center will be built directly across the road from the junior high and is expected to open in 2025.
So Tarbutton Road will see a tremendous increase in traffic, most of it coming from out-of-parish travelers on I-20.
One of the first questions is will there be a concern of security for the junior high and its students.
Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker doesn’t believe so.
“I don’t see issues,” said Walker. “It’s not a truck stop. There was talk about sex trafficking and things like that. That happens at truck stops. I don’t see it as an issue.”
Local law enforcement agrees with Walker’s assessment.
“I don’t see it as a safety concern,” said Lincoln Parish Sheriff Stephen Williams. “We have a School Resource Officer (SRO) at every school. We have security measures in place at all our schools. I don’t foresee it to being a concern.”
Each year between 550 and 600 Lincoln Parish seventh and eighth graders call Ruston Junior High School home five days a week.
Ruston Junior High School principal Keisha Douglas said she also feels good about the situation and that she hasn’t really heard much for any of the parents or teachers when it comes to safety concerns.
“To be honest, no,” said Douglas when asked if any parents had contacted her since the news broke. “No one has said anything other than Buc-ee’s is coming. I haven’t had (parents or teachers) talk to me about it. Now, when we get closer or when the construction starts maybe I will, but as of now I have not.
“I feel good about it. We will have to get into it first, but we are off of Taburtton. We have our own private drive in the front and our entrance on the side for car line and bus barn. The only other entry is locked during the day so really the only way in is to take Tarbutton to get to our faculty lot and then use the main entrance to the school to get buzzed in (to the school).”
Lincoln Parish School Board Superintendent Ricky Durrett believes the travel center won’t pose a threat and said the school board has time before Buc-ee’s opens to implement any additional security measures if they feel they are needed.
“We’ve got time to put some things in place to make the (school) even more secure,” said Durrett. “I think our (school) entrance is there already. It’s hardened where you have to be buzzed (into the school) and everybody comes through the front. I do think we will put up some more fencing across the front (of the school), like what you see on the boulevard at Ruston High with some gates that open and close.”
Durrett said Ruston Junior High School has security cameras throughout the school and new cameras will be installed over the next 18 months. He also feels that the fact it’s not a truck stop is a positive.
“If you told me that (a) truck stop was coming over there, that would be a bit of a concern,” said Durrett. “But Buc-ee’s doesn’t allow 18 wheelers. It’s mostly family traffic off the interstate, but it’s coming in to get gas and to shop.
“So, I think it’s almost like a shopping center in that respect. I’ve always thought that Buc-ee’s are clean establishments when we stop there. The inside is clean. The outside is clean. There’s not a lot of loitering around or people just hang out at it.”