JFK Elementary school officials 'shocked' over potential consolidation

JFK Elementary school officials 'shocked' over potential consolidation

CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) - A projected $10 million budget deficit for the Calcasieu Parish School Board means cuts. One they're considering is the consolidation of three schools: Reynaud Middle, Ralph Wilson Elementary and T.H. Watkins Elementary.

However, after a large turnout from Watkins at last night's CPSB Budget Committee meeting, they were removed from the list.

In their place, John F. Kennedy Elementary was added. Consolidation options for Kennedy will be brought to the committee in January.

It's a scenario that shocked school officials at Kennedy.

For over a decade, Dr. Dinah Robinson has been with JFK Elementary.

But as Principal, she's no longer sure of the school's future.

Kennedy wasn't on the list at Tuesday's CPSB budget meeting when it was announced consolidation of three schools was being considered to help close a $10 million budget shortfall.

But now JFK Elementary is also being considered for consolidation and school officials say they're shocked.

"What am I to do with a B school and someone is saying closure? What am I suppose to tell my teachers that have worked extremely hard to gain this B?" asked Kennedy's Principal, Dr. Dinah Robinson.

It was after one of the schools was removed from the list that Kennedy was added as an option to consider.

"I don't know what they see, or what they're doing, or why they want to close Kennedy," said Robinson.

Robinson says they were considered for closure in the past because of low enrollment, but since then, they've grown – not just in size, but also academically.

"We were the only at-risk school to receive the top gains award. We were the first school in this parish, in this school district to receive a high academics award from the state," said Robinson.

And others worry a consolidation will damper those efforts.

"When you take high performing students and you bring them to a low performing school, their scores will drop," said Jere Dailey, Kennedy's teacher of the year.

Not to mention, these teachers call Kennedy, home.

Pre K teacher, Verlia McDonald, said in addition to her oldest son attending Kennedy, she "worked with this school for 40 years. We are one big family."

Dr. Robinson says she's also concerned placing at-risk students into larger classrooms will hurt students academically. Plus, "what are we saying when we say close a school that's successful? What are we telling the parents? What are we telling the community? What are we telling the children, that the goal is not to be successful? Do not close the doors."

Many of the teachers, including the principal, say their children attended Kennedy and it's a blow to hear they're even being considered.

But just as the other schools had an opportunity to voice concerns at Tuesday's budget meeting, Kennedy will have the same opportunity in January, when staff will bring consolidation options for the school, to the budget committee.