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NEW ROADS — School leaders in Pointe Coupee Parish tonight will consider whether to close at least two schools and shorten the school week to four days amid efforts to solve a significant budget shortage.

The district is running on a nearly $1 million budget deficit and has grappled with a revolving door of teachers who often leave for higher pay in neighboring school systems. It's put the school district in a position where it needs to cut costs and also find new ways to generate more money.

Among the cost-saving proposals the board will discuss include closing Upper Pointe Coupee and Close Rougon elementary schools, expanding Livonia High School to cover 6th through 12th grades and moving an alternative learning program to the Rosenwald Elementary campus.

The largest proposed change would involve reducing classes to four times per week.

A handful of Louisiana schools, including districts in East Feliciana, Avoyelles and Caldwell parishes, operate under a four-day week. 

The Department of Education doesn't track the number of schools that have a reduced school week and leaves that decision to local systems. Schools that use shorter weeks often have longer school days to meet state instruction time requirements.

Supporters of the shortened week say it can help shed costs for busing students, especially in sprawling rural areas.

In all, the proposed spending cuts would reduce the school's budget shortfall only to $715,915 next year, according to district estimates.

Voters last fall overwhelmingly approved extending the current property tax amid worries that failing to do so would lead to significant teacher layoffs and the shuttering of up to half of the parish's schools. But with the lost tax revenue following the closure of a barge operator and rising transportation costs, the district also needs to raise more money to balance its budget.

The school board is considering a 9-mill hike to boost teacher salaries and pay for transportation costs, which accounts for the district's second-highest expense.

Though teachers in Pointe Coupee earn slightly higher than the state average, the district is surrounded by systems that pay more. The district sees about 40 teachers leave each year, mostly for similar jobs in other districts. 

The proposed tax hike would boost administrators' and teachers' yearly salaries by $7,000.

New teachers in Pointe Coupee earn about $39,000 a year, compared to $49,000 in West Baton Rouge and more than $50,000 for teachers in Iberville Parish.

School officials will meet on Feb. 12 to finalize how they plan to seek a tax hike that would appear on the May 9 ballot.

Tonight's meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at the school board office in New Roads.

Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com.