“I felt like everything was about to change.”: What’s the future of Bolton athletics after RPSB proposed plan?

While sports will be offered at Bolton next year, the future of athletics is still up in the air.
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 11:18 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Rapides Parish School Board is essentially back to the drawing board following the board meeting on Tuesday, March 7, that featured plenty of feedback on its “Better Facilities” strategic plan.

The plan would have merged Phoenix Magnet and Rapides Academy with Bolton High School and eventually led to the closure of Alma Redwine and Horseshoe Drive Elementary. However, the cloud of uncertainty has left some teachers and faculty members worried if they would even have a job next school year.

“It was like okay boom, this is the information you’re given, you have to be able to deal with it,” said Bolton’s girls’ basketball coach Antonio Keller.

Keller had the same reaction as many last week when details were revealed about the school board’s proposed plan. Part of RSPB’s proposal was to transform Bolton High School into a K-12 academic and performing arts school, while also getting rid of athletics.

“I felt like Bolton High School, as I had come to know it because I’m an alumnus of Bolton, I felt like everything was about to change.”

For Coach Keller, he feared that entailed a change of scenery for the coaches at Bolton. In one particular section of the 19-page proposed document, it listed that “some positions will be eliminated based on need.” Coach Keller said before a vote could even take place at the board meeting, they were already being told that they may be forced if sports were no longer offered.

“I don’t teach a core subject,” said Keller. “I don’t teach English, science or math. I teach a class that would not have been offered here anymore, so I really felt like there was no place for me.”

Just two weeks ago, Coach Keller helped lead the Bolton Lady Bears to the high school basketball quarterfinals round for the first time in 20 years, but a week after that game, he said it had appeared that a proposal by the board would be essentially firing them on a decision that was out of his team’s control.

For days, Keller did not only feel his job was in limbo but also worried about the future of his players. Keller told News Channel 5 he had to have “emotional discussions” with his players on what would happen if they were forced to no longer have the opportunity to play at the school.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, one Bolton athlete pleaded his case saying that he was already working towards next season and he only wants to dress out as a Bolton Bear.

Ultimately, after many concerns were expressed, RPSB did approve a substitute motion to create an advisory council to determine the next steps moving forward. This means while sports will be offered at Bolton next year, the future of athletics is still up in the air.

Keller advises the school board to carefully consider all elements and people that would be impacted, including sports, before voting on a proposal.

“Sports are important to the community,” said Keller. “Sometimes I think that may get lost in the plans academically. A lot of times what motivates a kid to try harder in the classroom is the sport they participate in.”

The school board’s first steps to creating that advisory council will take place during committee meetings on March 21.

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