Impassioned pleas from students and faculty of the performing arts program at Lafayette High School did not sway the Lafayette Parish School Board on Wednesday from making a unanimous vote to move the program to Comeaux High.
Lafayette High is now the largest high school in the state, with a 2015-16 enrollment of more than 2,400 students, and it hosts gifted programs, a Health Careers academy and the Performing Arts academy.
“I think this is an opportunity to support a program and let it grow, because it really can’t grow where it is,” said board member Justin Centanni, who represents Lafayette High.
Meanwhile, Comeaux High — which hosts a Visual Arts academy — is poised to lose about 900 of its more than 1,800 students when the new Southside High School opens in Youngsville for the 2017-18 school year.
Board member Jeremy Hidalgo, who represents Comeaux, moved to transfer the program.
“We were elected to make tough decisions,” Hidalgo said.
The Performing Arts program enrolls 441 students.
More than 27 percent of those students are zoned for Comeaux but attend Lafayette High through the district’s Schools of Choice program.
About 22 percent of students in the program are zoned for Lafayette High, with Carencro High- and Acadiana High-zoned students each making up 18 percent of the program’s enrollment and another 15 percent zoned for Northside High School, Chief Administrative Officer Joe Craig said Wednesday.
The program transferred from Comeaux to Lafayette High in 2008.
Comeaux will have 31 extra classrooms after the transition, but it does not have an auditorium for students to rehearse or perform.
The board first proposed the change February as an effort to better disperse students throughout the district and had taken public comment on the issue since, often encountering pleas to keep the program where it is.
Greg Robin, director of the Performing Arts academy, pointed out Wednesday that forcing students to wait on performance facilities would diminish the quality of their learning.
“You’re asking students and voters to wait on children’s educations,” Robin said.
The board had the option of either moving the performing arts or health academies to Comeaux High or keeping the programs at Lafayette High but capping enrollment into the two academies.
The board opted unanimously to nix another three potential solutions to the overcrowding problem at Lafayette High: to create equal, parallel Performing Arts or Health Careers academies at Comeaux High, with gifted services being available at both sites; to designate Lafayette High as a magnet school, which would diminish its athletic program; or decline any academy changes at Lafayette High.
An earlier proposal to keep the programs intact but shrink the Lafayette High enrollment zone was not considered, although the entire district is undergoing a rezoning effort that’s set for completion by the end of the year.