Last Modified: Thursday, May 17, 2012 10:49 AM
KENNER (AP) — The Jefferson Parish School Board has voted 8-1 to close seven campuses at the end of the school year.
The campuses to close include: Kate Middleton Elementary in Gretna, Homedale Elementary in Harvey, Rillieux Elementary in Waggaman, Maggiore Elementary in Metairie, Bunche Academy in Metairie, St. Ville Academy in Harvey and Waggaman School.
The Times-Picayune reports the first four are traditional elementary schools whose students will disperse to other sites. The others are alternative programs for students struggling academically, which will shift onto high school campuses or join other alternative sites.
A quick vote that took place after less than an hour of discussion, mostly from nine speakers from the audience, surprised some observers, who described it as an unceremonious end for beloved educational institutions.
"I thought they would've mentioned every school," said Brenda Bonura, a kindergarten teacher at Homedale, who said she wasn't surprised by the result but hoped for more recognition of the fallen campuses. "They just made a blanket statement."
Leann Falcone, parent of a prekindergarten student at Homedale, paid her own tearful tribute to the school after the vote.
"It's a home," she said. "It's literally a home. Our kids come from some low areas. They come to school to get away from some of the circumstances they have at home."
Alongside the closures, the plan includes waves of student transfers to relieve crowding at A.C. Alexander Elementary in Kenner, Alice Birney Elementary in Metairie and Estelle Elementary in Marrero. Students leaving Estelle will help create the school system's only campus covering pre-kindergarten through eighth grade at what is now Ellender Middle in Marrero. Acting Superintendent James Meza has said he is interested in testing and possibly spreading the combined school model.
Administrators reported a total of 2,512 students who will feel the changes directly. They will shift among a total of 27 campuses. The system operates 89 schools, including some that share buildings and omitting separately run charter schools.
The closure and consolidation plan grew from a drive to reorganize a school system that hasn't adjusted to decades of enrollment erosion and from an effort to balance a budget for 2012-13 that faces a $25 million deficit. The closures will save an estimated $5.8 million. Officials factored enrollment, academic scores, building soundness, space availability in receiving schools, transportation logistics, desegregation ramifications and ongoing grant-financed projects to identify schools to close.