After more than an hour of discussion Tuesday, the Calcasieu Parish School Board's Budget/Fiscal Management Committee unanimously agreed on a reconfiguration plan involving Combre-Fondel and J.D. Clifton Elementary Schools.

The proposal, to be considered by the full School Board in June, would turn Combre into a school for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Clifton would be an early childhood center for Head Start and pre-K students.

The initial proposal by School Board staff recommended Combre serve as the early childhood center and Clifton the K-5 school.

Currently, Combre teaches students in grades three through five, with Clifton teaching pre-K through second grade students.

Fred Hardy, District 2 School board member, argued the initial proposal would end up hurting Molo Middle School and Washington-Marion High School.

"I'm looking at making sure we save neighborhood schools and don't dismantle my whole area," Hardy said. "The area is going to build up."

Karl Bruchhaus, CPSB superintendent, said the reconfiguration plan is designed to raise financial feasibility, pool resources for early childhood education and boost teacher collaboration. He added that it would also save nine staff positions in general.

Hardy spoke of how voters in District 31 approved a $46 million bond issue in November 2017 to fund improvements at eight schools, including Combre and Clifton. One project includes a multipurpose gym facility at Combre.

Ann Ragsdale, a fifth grade teacher at Combre, said she supported Combre becoming a K-5 school. She mentioned the school's new gym that is near completion, three fully-stocked computer labs, many highly-certified teachers and a high teacher retention rate.

"We can truly build foundations for our children's future," she said.

Resident Mike Smith was one of several who spoke in favor of having Combre become a school for students in grades K-5.

Earlier on Tuesday, the committee voted 11-3 in support of reconfiguring John F. Kennedy and T.H. Watkins Elementary Schools. The proposal calls for Kennedy to host Head Start and pre-K students, with Watkins hosting K-5 students.

Both proposals require approval by the full School Board.

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