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East Baton Rouge Superintendent Warren Drake speaks before the school board during a Feb. 4, 2017, retreat at Louisiana Technology Park.

Advocate file photo by CAROLINE OURSO

East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake is asking the School Board on Thursday to move forward on plans to merge, expand or relocate more than a dozen public schools.

Drake is calling for merging 10 schools, expanding one, closing one and relocating two more. Both Glen Oaks High and the reopening of Istrouma High would add middle schools; two schools in the Capital and Broadmoor areas would expand to focus on grades kindergarten through eighth; Mayfair Lab would add high school grades; Park Elementary would relocate to Capitol Elementary; and BR FLAIM would relocate to the former Valley Park Junior High campus.

White Hills Elementary, which is near Baker and has just 150 students, is the only school recommended for closure. Another option is merging White Hills with an unnamed elementary school nearby with each focusing on certain grades.

Some changes would take effect in August, while others would wait another year.

Drake also is calling on adding magnet programs in the fall to Woodlawn Middle and Woodlawn High schools. The programs, which would be selective admissions, would eventually educate as many as half the students in those schools.

The magnets would draw strictly from within the attendance zones of those schools. The two schools are key to the proposed St. George school district, which supporters planned to create but were unable to get enough signatures to get on the ballot a proposed St. George city, the first step in creating a breakaway school district.

Facility changes dominate Drake’s plan, called the “Plan for Academic Innovation & Organizational Efficiency.”

Some changes deal with schools that flooded in August. Other proposals involve schools where enrollment has declined. Others are meant to expand already popular programs or offer more options for parents, particularly in southeast Baton Rouge.

The latest version of the plan talks little about attendance zones. The one attendance zone change proposed would reassign about 350 high school students to the new Istrouma High, with some 300 of them from Belaire High and the rest from Broadmoor High. Drake has dropped remapping other high and middle schools, particularly in the Woodlawn area, proposed zone changes that prompted heated debate at the March 4 School Board retreat.

Instead, Drake is suggesting waiting until the school system figures out what to do with 20 acres of vacant property in the Jefferson Terrace area, what’s known as Jefferson Home sites. For years, the school system has planned to build a school on the property, maybe a middle school, maybe a magnet school. The board may settle on a plan for the property by December.

“When the Jefferson Home site school opens it would naturally reduce some attendance zones (in the Woodlawn area),” said Adonica Duggan, a spokeswoman for the school system.

Adding a high school to Mayfair Lab also could lessen enrollment pressure in southeast Baton Rouge schools and clear space for the new Woodlawn area magnet programs. High school grades would begin in 2019 with its first graduating class in spring 2023. Drake is looking to build the high school on the Mayfair campus, which is not far from Jefferson Terrace at 9880 Hyacinth Ave. Mayfair Lab opened as a magnet school in 2013 and has about 340 students.

To help finance the new high school, Drake wants to shift half of the $20 million that has been budgeted to rebuild Park Elementary.

The remaining $10 million from Park Elementary would go to add middle school grades to Broadmoor Elementary, allowing it to be a K-8 school in August 2018 when Broadmoor Elementary’s rebuilt facility at 9650 Goodwood Blvd. is complete. Broadmoor Middle’s nearby campus would be vacated.

Here are some other Drake facility proposals:

  • Merge Capitol Elementary and Middle schools into one K-8 school. The two schools have 440 and 430 students, respectively. They would operate at Capitol Middle’s campus at 5100 Greenwell Springs Road starting this fall.
  • Merge Glen Oaks High and North Banks Middle in August, with North Banks’ 180 students heading to Glen Oaks High. The high school, which was flooded, is about to undergo a $21 million reconstruction.
  • Merge Howell Park Elementary at Claiborne Elementary rather than return Howell Park to 6125 Winbourne Ave. The two schools have 250 and 570 students, respectively. Howell Park, which flooded in August, has shared space since it was at Claiborne, 4707 Denham St.

The School Board is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Thursday at the School Board Office, 1050 S. Foster Drive. The board, however, is not to planning a final vote on Drake’s plan until its April 20 meeting.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier