Attrition accounts for staff reduction needs in Lafayette schools _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Construction continues on the Lafayette Renaissance Charter Academy at Couret Farms Tuesday in Lafayette.

While about 900 Lafayette Parish students are expected to move to one of three new charter schools come August, attrition is going to take care of the staffing level changes within the Lafayette Parish school system, Human Resources Director Bruce Leininger said.

More than 1,500 students plan to enroll in the schools, based on the most recent figures released by the three charter schools earlier this month.

So far, at least 896 Lafayette Parish school students indicated they plan to enroll in one of the schools and more than 600 are either from out of parish or are private or parochial school students, the school district’s chief financial officer, Billy Guidry, told Lafayette Parish School Board members during their retreat Saturday.

Based on projected charter school enrollment, teaching positions in kindergarten through third grade would have been cut by five positions and 12 teaching positions would have been cut in fourth grade, Leininger said.

But, the Lafayette Parish school system expects enrollment increases in fifth grade to add six more teaching positions and 10 more teaching positions in grades six through eight. Another dozen teachers are needed at high schools based on enrollment projections, he said.

Leininger said the staffing projections are based on preliminary enrollment information and will be used to present staffing needs to the School Board when it meets May 20 to discuss the general fund budget.

Attrition will eliminate the need to cut some positions; however, struggling schools also had the opportunity to retain some of their teaching spots if they were close to meeting the student-teacher ratio requirement to fill another teacher position, Leininger said.

“We realized we had an opportunity here and could make an incremental impact of reducing teacher-pupil ratio across elementary schools,” he said. “For schools that are struggling, we want to get them as low (teacher-pupil ratio) as possible.”

Staffing cuts would have been necessary had a majority of students withdrawn from one or two schools, but that wasn’t the case, Leininger said.

“We have resignations and retirements at the end of the year that will handle that,” he said. “We’ve done some dynamic balancing and will move some bodies around.”

In August, two K-6 charter schools managed by Charter Schools USA and one K-5 charter school managed by National Heritage Academies will open in Lafayette Parish.

The two K-6 charter schools are under construction on separate sides of the parish. Acadiana Renaissance Charter Academy opens in Youngsville near Sugar Mill Pond while its sister school, Lafayette Renaissance Charter Academy, is planned off Pont des Mouton Road in a new neighborhood development, Couret Farms.

Renovation of the former Albertson’s grocery store off Castille Avenue and Evangeline Thruway is underway for the new K-5 charter school, Willow Charter Academy.

All three charter schools plan to expand each year to become K-8 schools. Charter Schools USA also plans to open a high school in the parish, while National Heritage Academies plans to open a second K-8 school in the parish in the Broussard area.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter @Marsha_Sills.