RPSB passes substitute motion to controversial ‘Better Facilities’ strategic plan
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Rapides Parish School Board has passed a substitute motion relating to the “Better Facilities” strategic plan during its March 7 meeting.
The substitute motion, which was presented by District I member Sandra Franklin, aims to create an advisory council and not yet make a vote on the “Better Facilities” plan. To recap, that plan would lead to the eventual closure of four Rapides Parish schools - Phoenix Magnet Elementary, Rapides Academy, Alma Redwine Elementary and Horseshoe Drive Elementary.
At the start of the discussion over the “Better Facilities” plan, two substitute motions were presented. One was Franklin’s. The other motion was made by Board President Dr. Stephen Chapman, which would have slowed down the implementation of the plan. It would have also changed the new K-12 proposal from a “program” to a “school.”
Member Willard McCall (District D) offered a different substitute motion to Chapman’s substitute motion. It also strictly sticks to the creation of an advisory council, and no action would be done until the council comes back with feedback on 2025-2026. The meeting then moved to its public comment period.
Hugh Newcomer, the Rapides Parish Middle School Student of the Year and Rapides Academy Student Body President, made a passionate plea to the board, asking members to support McCall’s motion and slow down the process. He accounted for the past week at Rapides Academy where students and faculty members have been upset by the news of the new plan.
Newcomer recognized that what makes Rapides Academy great is not the building, but the people. He said he is also speaking for those who are not able to voice their concerns. He said students trust the board and their education, and that means he trusts them to make the right decisions.
“Our education is in your hands,” he said.
Clifford Pearson, a pastor of a church adjacent to Alma Redwine, expressed his opposition to the plan. He detailed how the school is an “oasis” for students in the community. He said the school’s presence helps keep drug dealers away and keeps children fed in the summer.
“Us together is better than us apart,” he said.
Karon Bordley, a student from Bolton, said students were told Friday about the plan, right before ACT week, which led to more stress. He spoke on behalf of the school’s athletes, who are already working toward their next season, many of them still in them. As a 6′6″ athlete, he only wants to be dressed out as a Bolton Bear.
Donna Mathews, a concerned parent, expressed her disappointment that the Alma Redwine/Horseshoe Drive closure has been “overshadowed” by K-12 academy creation. She believes the issue of closing those facilities should have been in a separate motion.
The board then voted down McCall’s substitute motion, which would have meant no action would be taken on the plan and an advisory council would be formed and return with feedback in 2025-2026.
The board entered a state of disarray, trying to sort out what was going to happen next. Things got heated as parents expressed how the board has already “made up their minds” on this.
Chapman’s motion was presented next and voted down.
Finally, Frankin’s substitute motion was presented and passed.
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