Kirk Meche, Special to the American Press
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 10:28 AM
A standing-room-only crowd of people — many of them holding signs and wearing school colors — filled the Calcasieu Parish School Board meeting Tuesday as officials discussed whether to close three schools. The School Board, facing a $10 million budget deficit, has proposed closing Ralph Wilson and John F. Kennedy elementary schools and Reynaud Middle.
Many attendees, including parents, teachers, administrators, local officials, and civic and religious leaders, had to watch and listen to the meeting via a live feed on monitors in the Central Office lobby. Thirty-four blue cards were filled out by people who wanted to speak in favor of keeping the schools open.
Ultimately, the board voted to close only Reynaud Middle. School Board members Fred Hardy, Clara Duhon and Roman Thompson voted against the closure. The 155 students at Reynaud will be divided between Molo and Oak Park middle schools.
"Reynaud has had so many opportunities from us to improve ... but unfortunately the school has not progressed,” said School Board member Mack Dellafosse. “I think the majority of the board realized that, and we cut our losses.”
Dellafosse said that by consolidating Reynaud, the students will now be in schools that will give them the opportunity to play football and join band and other clubs. “They don’t have that right now because of the small environment, and you have teachers who are burnt out,” he said.
At the beginning of the meeting, the board decided not to vote on the closure of John F. Kennedy Elementary. However, they later passed a motion to revisit the consideration in November after the Budget Committee reviews a future study on the school. The board also voted to table discussions on the possible closure of Ralph Wilson Elementary until November as well. Both decisions were met with cheers and applause from the crowd.
After listening to many members of the community speak passionately and in favor of both John F. Kennedy and Ralph Wilson, the board challenged the public to stay interested and involved. School Board member Jim Karr said that after hearing from blue-card speakers and learning of all of the community support, he was changing his position on the closures of the two schools.
“I have been reading a lot in the paper about the support of these schools,” Karr said. “We’ve have asked for community support of our schools for I don’t know how long, and now we are seeing a real outpouring of help. These students, your children, must have that."
Dellafosse said he was happy with the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting and thinks community members now sees that they must stay involved.
“What we do between now and November will dictate what happens to these schools,” Dellafosse said. “So my whole issue is that we just empower them to continue. They are doing excellent programs in the schools. They are doing as much as they can.”
Posted By: Melvin Miller On: 1/22/2014
Title: School Closures
The School Board might consider selling off some of its unused property to alleviate some of the budget shortfalls rather than upending childrens' lives.