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East Baton Rouge Parish Schools Superintendent Warren Drake speaks during a school board swearing in ceremony, Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at McKinley Middle Magnet in Baton Rouge, La.

Plans to close Broadmoor and North Banks middle schools in May sparked debate Tuesday, with some East Baton Rouge Parish School Board members questioning whether the schools those students would be headed to would offer them a better education.

The closure of the two schools is the most charged aspect of a plan to change attendance zones at 20 schools, in the process moving almost 1,400 students. Board members also floated other potentially controversial changes to zones for other schools, including Istrouma High.

The changes, if approved, would take effect in August with the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Superintendent Warren Drake said the workshop Tuesday afternoon, where no votes were taken, was a good start. He said he detected mostly support for the package, which he said grew out of 18 months of meetings of an in-house committee, and welcomed additional thoughts from board members.

“I think you all agree with the vast majority of what is in there,” Drake told board members.

Drake said a final vote is not likely until the board meets in April. In the meantime, he said, he plans to meet with groups at the most-affected schools to get their input.

Board member Dawn Collins said it's crucial to hold such meetings before making big decisions like these.

“Sometimes you don’t really know the impact until you go to the community …,” Collins said.

Students and faculties at Broadmoor and North Banks middle schools face the biggest impact. Those schools have 377 and 136 students, about 41 and 36 percent of the capacity of those facilities.

School officials have discussed closing the schools for the past two years as part of a larger plan of school consolidations and closures, but their final close date has not been settled.

The superintendent is suggesting reassigning Broadmoor’s students to three neighboring middle schools. Two of those schools, Capitol and Park Forest middle schools, would in turn hand off 171 students to Brookstown Middle, bringing that low-enrollment school to about two-thirds full.

The proposed change to North Banks Middle is simpler: all 136 students would be added to Glen Oaks High School, which would become a middle-high school.

Board member Tramelle Howard urged Drake to do more to smooth the transition at Broadmoor Middle: “The morale at the school is absolutely dismal.”

Drake defended how the school system handles school closures, but acknowledged, “whenever you move students and teachers, it’s very traumatic.”

The superintendent said he’s followed the lead of principals at those schools as to when to visit and explain the changes to everyone. One principal, he said, wanted to wait until after standardized testing is over before having such a meeting.

Nevertheless, Drake said he will send letters this week to the staffs at both schools, letting them know what is happening.

Broadmoor Middle is in line for a $15 million remodeling starting in 2020, but school officials have yet to decide what kind of school to put there. The original idea was to move a popular foreign language school, BR FLAIM, to that building once it's renovated, but some parents resisted the move so the idea was dropped.

Assistant Superintendent Ben Necaise said there are a lot of options for the Broadmoor Middle campus, including creating a junior high or freshman academy for nearby Broadmoor High, or perhaps additional career-technical programs for the high school.

Board member Dadrius Lanus once again expressed concern with the plan to move the middle school students at North Banks Middle onto the Glen Oaks High campus. Lanus noted that North Banks was created years ago because of dissatisfaction with having middle school students at the high school.

“What’s the difference between now and when we did it last time around?” Lanus asked.

Necaise said there’s been more planning for the latest move back to the high school. He also said North Banks is too small to offer much beyond basic courses, whereas being at a larger high school would give students access to more courses and resources.

After the meeting, Lanus said he prefers to keep North Banks Middle as is until a new middle school can be created, perhaps on the campus of the former Glen Oaks Middle School, which has been under the control of the state since 2008.

Drake’s proposal also calls for changing attendance zones at 14 more schools to improve feeder patterns from elementary grades all the way to high school.

For instance, LaSalle Elementary would lose 118 students. With a smaller zone, all LaSalle students would feed into Westdale Middle and later into Tara High. Currently, some LaSalle students feed into Glasgow and Broadmoor middle schools and later Broadmoor High.

There was talk Tuesday about changing even more zones.

Board members Evelyn Ware-Jackson and Mike Gaudet floated the idea of expanding Istrouma High’s attendance zone south of Choctaw Drive, which might free up space at Tara High as well as at Woodlawn High.

Both had second thoughts about a plan they supported in 2017 to not only reopen closed Istrouma High School, but add a middle school to the high school campus on Winbourne Avenue. To do that, the school system stripped nearby Brookstown Middle School of its magnet program.

Ware-Jackson said that shift was a “big mistake” and said it might be time to move the program back from Istrouma to Brookstown.

Reversing that decision might free up about 100 seats at the high school.

Melissa Garrett, who monitors attendance zones for the board, warned that Istrouma High has limited room to add more students. It has almost 800 students now and does not yet have a senior class. The school, she noted, is set to add 200-plus seniors next year and as well as additional students in its new magnet program.

And the additional 171 students Brookstown Middle could receive if the plan on the table is approved would make sending more students there difficult.

“If you consider moving the magnet back there, you have a space issue,” Garrett said.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.