Reynaud Middle School safe for now, but future still uncertain

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Reynaud Middle School will remain open for now as the Calcasieu Parish School Board seeks a higher authority for a decision on whether to close the school. Discussion to close the school and redistribute students to Oak Park Middle and Molo Middle Schools was put on hold after board members were told they must ask the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and Recovery School District for permission.

"We have to seek permission on an agreement we made several years ago to keep Reynaud Middle School in Calcasieu Parish and not taken over by the Recovery School District. We made a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to make improvements over a three year period. Under that agreement if we make any changes to the MOU, we must seek permission," said Calcasieu Superintendent Wayne Savoy.

Reynaud Middle School currently has 146 students enrolled. When you do the math that's about a 6 to 1 student-teacher ratio. According to Karl Bruchhaus, Calcasieu School Board's Chief Financial Officer, closing the school and redistributing the students to Oak Park and Molo would save $2,300,000.

"Some may say we want to close the school down because it is a low performing school. They have made progress. This is not about that. I have never referred to that school not making it academically. This is strictly about dollars and cents as far as I'm concerned," said Bill Jongbloed, Calcasieu Parish School Board President.

"It's never been about money for me. It's about giving the students a better opportunity and education," said Randy Burleigh, Calcasieu Parish School Board Member.

Others argue that redistributing the students would just relocate the problem and overcrowd the other schools.

"I question whether or not this process is legal and I think the character of this board is at stake here," said Rev. J.L. Franklin. "All I hear tonight is that Reynaud Middle School's problem is a money problem. I don't think that is the problem. The problem is a lack of will and persistence to fix the problem."

The board also heard from one of Reynaud's students. "I think that closing down Reynaud Middle School is a bad idea. Because if you close the school it's like you're breaking our hearts," said Christine Scott, Reynaud Middle School student.

After further discussion the School Board voted eight to seven submit a plan to BESE and the Recovery School District on reasons why they want to close Reynaud Middle School. The School Board is also seeking an opinion from Federal Court on the legalities of closing the school.

Reynaud Middle School Principal Carolyn Thomas sees the decision as a victory.

"I'm excited about Reynaud not being closed tonight. It is still possible that we will remain in operation. Right now we are currently in a close relationship with the Recovery School District. According to their assessment of work we have improved our ratings on an ongoing basis. So I don't foresee any reason that RSD would agree to close us at this time in the middle of implementing the memorandum of understanding," said Thomas.

According to the Calcasieu School Board's legal counsel, the decision will likely not come in time to meet the budget recommendations.

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