LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish school system could be placing a cap on the number of students who can participate in the district’s most successful academic program.
Superintendent Donald Aguillard told the Lafayette Parish School Board on Wednesday night that the Early College Academy is facing a steep rise in costs at a time when the school system’s budget is strained.
Early College Academy was started in 2008 as a partnership with South Louisiana Community College. ECA students take classes on SLCC’s campus and finish high school with a diploma and an associate degree.
In 2014, Newsweek named the Early College Academy one of the 500 best high schools in the country.
“We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished both locally and nationally,” Early College Academy Principal Anne Castille told the board.
But the cost of tuition and fees for ECA students to attend SLCC has been rising, and by the 2017-18 school year, every ECA student will be charged full price for tuition and fees, she said.
Castille and Aguillard have proposed decreasing the maximum ninth-grade enrollment from 75 to 50 students and keeping 10th-grade enrollment at 50 students. Current enrollment is 281 students for ninth through 12th grades.
Board members questioned whether SLCC factored in a $1 million donation the school system gave to the community college when SLCC was raising money for a new academic building.
Castille said SLCC gave the school system tuition discounts and spread those discounts over a few years until they added up to $1 million.
“In all fairness to SLCC, they face many budget shortfalls,” Castille said. “This is one way they have to maintain their budget and quality of education. Unfortunately, it rolls down to us.”
Castille said ECA has more and more applicants every year. There are 130 freshman applicants for the 2016-17 school year. A lottery will select the 50 students who get accepted.
Board members asked Aguillard to get a legal opinion on whether parents whose children were not chosen in the lottery could pay tuition and fees for their children to attend Early College Academy.
“This is the single most successful program we have in the parish,” board member Erick Knezek said. “Before we cut services … I’d rather look at options for keeping and expanding the program.”
The board took no action on the issue. Aguillard said he will ask the board to take action on ECA funding soon.
“Is the board ready to contribute more funds, or do we scale back and service 200 students in the district?” Aguillard asked.
In other business, Aguillard told board members he will ask them in March to adopt student-teacher staffing ratios at their current levels, except for schools that have D letter grades. The move would require 11 additional teachers for the parish’s D-rated schools.
Also on Wednesday, the board congratulated the school counselors of the year for elementary, middle and high schools. Elementary school counselor of the year is Ronette Bourque, of L. Leo Judice Elementary. Youngsville Middle counselor Joanna Marx was named middle school counselor of the year, and Carencro High counselor Tonya Hebert was named high school counselor of the year.