SHREVEPORT, La. -- The Caddo Parish School Board will consider closing three schools in response to a budget shortfall related to the coronavirus pandemic and already declining enrollment.
The suggested school closures were discussed Tuesday as the board met in the second o three budget meetings to address the decline in revenue.
Superintendent Lamar Goree outlined a proposal in a news release which would close Arthur Circle Elementary, Jack P. Timmons Elementary and Mooretown Elementary. As a result, Mooretown students would attend Oak Park Elementary starting this fall while Jack P. Timmons students, who are often on some of the longest bus routes in the district, would attend schools closer to their homes including Blanchard Elementary, Donnie Bickham Middle, Walnut Hill Elementary/Middle and Turner Elementary/Middle.
For Arthur Circle, Goree proposed the creation of the Broadmoor STEM Academy, a prekindergarten through eighth grade campus housed at Broadmoor Middle. The Academy would provide increased student experiences in 21st century technology demands and knowledge in the STEM/Cyber fields.
Opening in the fall, the Academy builds upon the district’s strategic partnerships with organizations including the Cyber Innovation Center, Grambling State University and Louisiana Tech University. These partnerships will provide unparalleled access to curriculum aligned directly to college pathways in STEM-related fields.
While campuses would close and consolidate, Goree emphasized in a news release that no staff would lose their jobs in the transition and staff where possible would follow their students or have the opportunity to apply for vacant positions in the district.
Tuesday’s proposal comes after the board began hosting budget work sessions last week for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Those discussions showed the district was outperforming its current budget prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic resulted in expenditures by the district to address technology and food service needs while simultaneously seeing declines in sales tax revenue as businesses closed or reduced operations as part of the stay-at-home orders. These decreases in revenue while experiencing unexpected costs, has resulted in an estimated $12 million budget deficit for the upcoming budget year which begins July 1.
Meanwhile, the district continues to see a decline in student enrollment. Since 2010, the district has lost nearly 4,500 students as Shreveport and Caddo Parish have seen young families leave coupled with an aging population.
“While the district has closed 17 campuses since 2000, these efforts have not kept pace with the out flux we have seen of our students,” Goree said. “Unfortunately, with fewer students to serve along with a reduction in tax revenues, our board is faced with difficult decisions to be made in a short timeline.
“What is paramount in this discussion is providing the highest quality education for each child in the best learning environment. We cannot lose sight of the needs of our students and we must use this trying time to be innovative and push for equity for the children we serve," he added.
As the board evaluates closures and consolidations, members also are evaluating additional options to increase revenue and cut costs including rolling forward tax rates and using reserve funds. These options come as district leadership has decreased expenses including a thorough review of all positions and ways to recognize savings without hurting the classroom, the news release states.
“Our commitment is to the children we serve and ensuring we are doing everything we can to support them," Goree said. “That commitment has not waivered and will not waiver no matter how difficult our budget issues may be.”
The board is scheduled to vote in a special session meeting on June 9 via Zoom. The public will have the ability to speak during the meeting or may submit comments in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org to be read into the minutes of the meeting.
“The Caddo Parish School Board has faced many tough decisions in recent years and this is no doubt difficult as we look to address our financial issues while providing opportunities for children to receive a great education,” said board President Mary Trammel. “At the end of the day, we know we represent a diverse community with diverse needs and their voices must be considered as we move forward.”