Proposed elementary alternative school

February 2, 2007
Reported by Pam Dixon

Sandy Matthews has just about seen it all in her 25 years as a teacher. Matthews says, "I've had students curse me out before. I've had students throw things at me. I've had students threaten me and others." And these are elementary age kids she's talking about, part of a trend that is getting worse. Matthews says, "I think it's just a combination of factors, things going on at home, things going on in society. Some of it has to do with students on medications that aren't receiving medications correctly."

It's the most disruptive kids that the Calcasieu Parish School System is trying to tame, so that other children can learn without major interruptions. 5th grader Trey Fountain says, "If the student is cutting up, then it's like less time to get all our subjects." 5th grader Gabby McGee says, "It makes me upset because if we're learning a subject, it takes more time away from it."

A school board committee has come up with a pilot project for an alternative school for elementary age children who are violent or cause severe disruptions in class. The proposed site is the old and now vacant St. John Elementary School on Weaver Road. Students could be sent to the school for up to 45 days. Teacher Crystal Deshotel says, "We're not just sending them over there to just get them away. We do need to meet their needs."

The goal would be to help the unruly students learn responsible behavior by providing incentives, counseling and the help they need from highly trained staff.

The school board meets Tuesday at 4:45 p.m. If the board supports the plan for a new elementary alternative school, it is expected to send the issue to a budget committee to determine the funding.

Calcasieu already has one alternative school for middle and high school students.