Hundreds of public schoolchildren in Baton Rouge learned earlier this month that they are being reassigned to new schools this fall, ranging from the more than 100 students at Mayfair Middle to the 300 students at Delmont Elementary schools.
These changes are laid out in new attendance zone maps for Delmont and Mayfair as well as for Belfair Elementary and Lee High schools. These maps were shown to the public this past week as part of presentations given during informational meetings at those schools.
The School Board, however, only had a new map for Lee High when it voted for the changes March 21.
In fact, the board had almost no written information at the March meeting on the changes proposed for Belfair, Delmont and Mayfair. Instead the board “authorized” Superintendent Bernard Taylor to plan and implement the reconfigurations of the schools without having to return to the board for further approval.
These changes are part of an effort by Taylor to create what he’s calling “families of schools” in parts of Baton Rouge. In the case of Delmont and Mayfair, Taylor said he is trying to protect those schools, both with F rankings, from state takeover, something that could happen later this year if the schools remain unchanged.
In the past, the School Board has insisted on approving all attendance zones, often making changes before the school system mailed out reassignment notices.
School Board President David Tatman said Friday he wasn’t aware that any school attendance zones were adjusted.
“I don’t think when we approved the family of schools we changed attendance zone per se,” Tatman said.
When informed that there are new attendance maps for some schools, Tatman said he plans to ask for more information.
“If we are changing attendance zones, I want to see a map,” Tatman said.
The reassignment notices were mailed out to parents April 3, the same day Taylor held a promotional event to highlight the school changes, said Susan Nelson, interim director of communications and external relations.
Those changes included converting Belfair Elementary and Lee High into dedicated or school-wide magnet programs, Delmont Elementary into an early childhood center and Mayfair Middle into an elementary school modeled after LSU Lab School.
Late Friday afternoon, Nelson provided The Advocate with copies of the new maps for Belfair and Mayfair, as well as the previously released map for Lee High.
She said she will release the new Delmont map early this week. Delmont’s changes are the most involved, Nelson said, because those changes had “ripple effects,” prompting changes in the attendance zones of other nearby elementary schools. About 300 of Delmont’s students will have to change schools.
The conversion of Mayfair Middle appears to affect the fewest students, estimated at 100 to 150 students. They are currently sixth and seventh graders at Mayfair, an F-ranked school. They are being dispersed among three already crowded middle schools: Glasgow, Westdale and Woodlawn middle schools. They are all C-ranked schools.
Dozens of Mayfair’s sixth and seventh grade students are “overage,” meaning they are two or more years behind their peers in school. Plans were already underway to move overage students to alternative schools, which were recently approved by the board. Taylor calls these schools “superintendent academies.” These academies are an attempt to help alleviate overcrowding in middle schools and give these children a chance to catch up with their peers in a specialized setting.
In the case of Belfair, a C-ranked school, the new attendance zone map has more detail. About 117 students will move to Capitol Elementary and 42 to Melrose Elementary. Both are F ranked schools. Belfair is going to use the extra space to expand its popular Montessori magnet program, including adding a sixth grade this fall.
The number of students who will have to be reassigned from Lee High is unclear. The new dedicated magnet program Lee is starting will allow the 220-plus students now attending it to remain if they fill out an application, sit down for an interview and complete an “interest inventory” that lays out their interests. They will have to maintain a 2.5 GPA or better to remain at Lee. The application period starts Monday and ends May 24.
Lee students who fail to complete the application process will be reassigned to either McKinley or Tara high schools. McKinley currently has more than 1,250 students and Tara has more than 1,000. McKinley has a B ranking, while Tara has a D ranking.