The Lafayette Parish School Board decided Wednesday to close the Youngsville Middle School gifted enrichment program and to add fifth grades to Broadmoor, Katharine Drexel and Woodvale elementary schools, with both measures touted as efforts to reduce costs and make school assignments more efficient.
School system administration had proposed closing the Paul Breaux Middle School gifted enrichment program next year — the part-time classes are separate from the school’s full-time gifted program — and sending those students to the other two enrichment programs at Edgar Martin and Youngsville.
But the board instead chose, by a 7-2 vote, to close Youngsville’s gifted enrichment program, where public and private school students take gifted courses part time. The move would consolidate the district’s three gifted enrichment programs into two.
Board member Tehmi Chassion, whose district includes Paul Breaux, opposed closing the program.
“I would just hate to lose another program from District 4,” Chassion said.
Superintendent Don Aguillard presented the idea as a cost-saving measure, as no students who live in the Paul Breaux zone attend the enrichment program there, whereas students zoned for the other two schools do attend the schools’ respective programs.
“We are literally busing students across the city,” Aguillard said.
Board member Justin Centanni presented a substitute motion to keep the Paul Breaux program open and close the one in Youngsville.
“We shouldn’t be expanding programs on the south side of the parish when we’re trying to build classrooms,” Centanni said.
Board President Tommy Angelle and board member Jeremy Hidalgo — whose district includes Youngsville — opposed the motion.
Hidalgo said Youngsville’s campus is crowded, but he could not support moving children away from their zoned school.
A total of 30 students attend enrichment classes at Youngsville. Edgar Martin likely will absorb most of them.
One teaching position also will be eliminated because of the consolidation. Three will teach at Edgar Martin and two at Paul Breaux.
Changes to fifth-grade assignments for some Lafayette Parish schools also will go into effect during the 2017-18 school year.
Fifth grades will be removed from Broussard, Edgar Martin and L.J. Alleman middle schools and added to Broadmoor, Katharine Drexel and Woodvale elementary schools.
Woodvale’s fourth-grade gifted students, zoned to attend Edgar Martin for their fifth-grade year, will stay at Woodvale before transferring to Paul Breaux Middle School for sixth grade.
Portable buildings will be added to the elementary schools to accommodate for the additional students.
Centanni raised concerns about adding to the student population at Broadmoor and adding another portable building on the campus’ playground to accommodate the increase. Hidalgo also raised concerns about adding portable buildings to the Drexel campus.
Chief Administrative Officer Joe Craig said the eventual rezoning of the school district will alleviate crowding at schools.
Also Wednesday, an almost $3.4 million purchase approved by the board will buy new textbooks and supplemental materials for school district students for the next school year. The funds will come out of the 2016-17 budget.
More than half of the purchase cost will fund social studies books from students in grades six through 12. The rest funds math textbooks for Jumpstart and grades kindergarten through 12; English-language arts textbooks for Jumpstart and grades six through 12; environmental science books; and financial literacy workbooks for grades 10-12.
The purchase also will include supplemental materials for math, science, social studies and English-language arts.
The board approved several other items Wednesday without discussion.
After-school learning program for fifth- through seventh-grade students who need intensive support services to pass their grades will be implemented next year at Acadian, Carencro, Judice, Lafayette and Scott middle schools. The 90-day, 90-minute intensive sessions will be geared toward students in danger of repeating a grade.
Plans to install covered walkways at Boucher, Gallet and Prairie elementary schools and Northside High School are moving forward, as are plans to replace underground air-conditioning pipes at Scott Middle School, after the board approved advertising for bids for the project.
The district’s administration also will begin searching for a principal for the new Southside High School in Youngsville after the board approved advertising for the position.
The school system plans to hire a principal within nine months to a year before the school opens, meaning a decision could come by the end of summer or during the fall.
Whoever fills the role will interview potential faculty and staff members and make hiring recommendations, while also addressing the administrative details of opening a new school: developing employee and student handbooks, establishing procedures for the day’s operation, and ordering furniture, equipment and supplies.