CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) - The fate of several Lake Charles schools on the line at a special-called Calcasieu Parish School Board meeting, Tuesday evening.
The two and a half hour meeting was an emotional one, the room filled to maximum capacity. But most were there to hear about the possible school consolidations.
And it all began at a December budget committee meeting, when the board announced it was facing a $10 million budget shortfall for 2014-2015.
A room was filled to maximum capacity at Tuesday's special-called CPSB meeting.
To help close a $10 million budget shortfall, the budget committee in December recommended, "that staff move forward with the consolidation of Reynaud Middle to Molo Middle and schools of choice," said Vice Chair, Joe Andrepont.
Despite a phase-out suggestion by one testifier, the board approved the original motion, adding students go to Oak Park Middle, along with Molo Middle, to save an estimated $1.5 million.
CPSB member Bryan LaRocque wanted the public to understand they are considering the consolidations based on numbers, "So what we're doing is not against any one school or community it's what we're being forced to do to create efficiency in the system."
Board members reiterated it's not an easy decision to close a school.
Next, was T.H. Watkins. In December, the budget committee removed the school from the list.
"We are hoping that you will again vote to keep T.H. Watkins open," pleaded Watkins Principal Kay Victorian.
After lengthy testimony by parents and teachers, the board voted to keep Watkins off the list.
But when it came to Ralph Wilson Elementary, a motion was made.
"Evaluate what we're doing, evaluate the potential, where we're going, evaluate the potential of the school and where we're at. So, for that reason I would like to go until at least November and then we can go from there," said board member Mack Dellafosse.
The motion to postpone Wilson for school closure possibility until November was approved. Staff estimated an $836,000 savings with that school's closure.
The motion was followed by testifiers emphasizing a need to step it up at home.
"It's not just now; it's going home and applying what they just told us," said one of the testifiers.
Several people also testified on behalf of John F. Kennedy Elementary, which was added last minute in December to be considered for a study.
"John F. Kennedy School is the only school named after a United States President. And I think if he were here today he would be proud," said JFK Principal Dr. Dinah Robinson.
In the end, an amendment to delay their study until November was also approved.
Staff did tell board members tonight that a 2.75% growth factor in the MFP, could result in the school district receiving $2.5 million.
However, that's only if it's passed by BESE and the state legislature, and won't be known until June.
In other board action, they approved 2014-2015 reductions for: 35 Para-Professional positions, testing line item reductions, athletic/school activity ins., maintenance line item reductions, and not filling the Director of School Improvement position for a total savings of $1.9 million.
The board also approved a staggered bell schedule which would reduce up to 20 buses, resulting in a $700,000 savings.
Originally teacher reductions were discussed by the committee in December, using staffing formulas for a $55,000 savings. However, a substitute amendment was approved to address every department across the board from the Superintendent down, rather than just teachers. That information will be shared with the board in a future budget committee meeting.
The board also approved school audits as presented, as well as a revision of policy for DFL – Cash Management and Investments.