AMITE — A week after the Tangipahoa Parish School Board requested federal court approval for a new student assignment plan, parents of students at Hammond Westside Elementary Montessori School pleaded with the board Tuesday to begin implementing at least part of the plan by next school year.
Shenika Conley and Chris Genre said they would like to keep their sixth-graders at Hammond Westside for another year, rather than sending them to Hammond Junior High Magnet School in the fall.
Under the proposed new student assignment plan, Hammond Westside would expand to take in both seventh and eighth grades, while Hammond Junior High, which currently has seventh and eighth grades, would include prekindergarten through sixth grades.
But even with approval from U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle, who oversees the parish’s desegregation case, the new plan would not go into effect until the 2016-17 school year.
Genre said his and Conley’s children are among a select group of high-achieving students who might be eligible for a pilot program for seventh- graders that he said Hammond Westside Principal Cathy LeBlanc has proposed.
“I hope I’m not speaking out of turn on this, but I want to talk to y’all about what we can do to make this happen,” Genre told the School Board.
Genre said the district risks losing its best-performing students to private schools or homeschooling if the board does not help bridge the gap for those sixth-graders who would otherwise be sent to Hammond Junior High next year.
“I don’t want to go into any details as to why. I think it’s pretty self-explanatory why,” Genre said.
Board President Brett Duncan said Conley and Genre weren’t the first parents who have expressed that sentiment. When Genre pressed for an answer as to whether the pilot program might be approved, Duncan said the board was not supposed to respond to public comments received during the meeting.
But “if it is a possibility, I’m sure it’s something you’ll hear about pretty soon,” he said.
In other business, the School Board approved its property tax rates for 2015.
The board agreed to levy 3 mills for the Hammond District 1 alternative program; 15 mills for the same district’s magnet schools; 11 mills to pay off construction debt in Sumner District 116; 14 mills to pay off construction debt in Independence District 39A; and 4.06 mills for its parishwide constitutional millage.
The Sumner and Independence construction millages for 2015 are both lower than in 2014, when they were levied at 13 mills and 15 mills, respectively.
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