NEW ROADS — The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board finally reached a decision Thursday night on what to do with the now-closed Pointe Coupee Central High School campus.
The next step is to get the approval of the federal judge who had closed the school.
The board on Thursday decided 6-2 to transform the school into a Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Arts Academy modeled after successful programs in Lafayette and Iberville parishes.
Board members Frank Aguillard, Kevin Hotard, James Cline, Brandon Bergeron, Les Ann Grezaffi and Anita LeJeune made up the majority voting in favor of the recommendation from School Superintendent Linda D’Amico.
Board members Tom Nelson and Chad Aguillard voted against the plan.
Central High was shut down in March for the 2014-15 school year by U.S. District Judge James J. Brady.
The state’s Recovery School District, which ran the school for six years, asked the court in March to return jurisdiction of the school to the parish school system after the state failed to improve academic performance.
Students who were attending Central High were transferred this fall to Livonia High School.
D’Amico originally presented board members with a proposal to transform Central into an early college/career academy that would offer students dual-enrollment opportunities, allowing them to earn high school diplomas and associate degrees simultaneously or industry-based certification that could jump-start their entry into the workforce.
But that plan was met with staunch criticism from several board members and a community group, which offered its own proposal a week ago to transform Central into a theme-based academy.
That proposal was among the six for the school that D’Amico presented Thursday night.
Bergeron said he asked D’Amico to look into the STEM Academy approach because he was impressed with the success the Iberville Parish School District saw with its two Math, Science and Arts academies.
“I think this is cutting edge (and) if we’re going to do something, let’s do something out the box,” Bergeron said.
D’Amico said a STEM program appealed more to her as well since the district wouldn’t be creating another standalone school, per se, that would be graded annually by the state Department of Education.
Like the academies in Iberville Parish, the standardized test scores and academic performance for the students enrolled in the STEM program at Central High would be folded into the scores for the school students would be attending if they weren’t enrolled in the academy.
No cost projections to implement the program were presented to the board Thursday night, and many of the details about how the program would be set up will be decided later by the board.
According to D’Amico’s proposal, the STEM program would have an application process requiring a certain grade-point average, and students would be selected through a lottery aimed at pulling a diverse enrollment of white and black students.
Because the matter is linked to a decades-long desegregation case, Brady will be looking for a plan that ensures a racial balance in the enrollment.
“Diversity has happened in these types of schools,” D’Amico said. “That’s what Judge Brady looked at me and said what we had to do.”
“We don’t know if anything we do will attract diversity. All we can do is do our level best to do that,” Chad Aguillard said in his opposition to the proposal.
The magnet-type program would cover grades 6 through 12 with students attending classes in block schedule format similar to college students.
The program would offer extracurricular activities and students would be able to participate in any sports at their home schools.
The board could likely open the school next fall, pending Brady’s approval. It’s being tentatively called The STEM Academy of Pointe Coupee.
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