Cloutierville community members call school's closing a "big loss"

CLOUTIERVILLE, La. (KALB) - In front of a packed house of community members, the Natchitoches Parish School Board voted to close Cloutierville Elementary School Thursday night.

The 6-5 vote was met with concern by community members throughout the parish. Especially by those in Cloutierville worried about the town's future.

"We have a bank, post office, we have this little store," said 'Highway 1 Market' Owner Donna Masson. "We have three churches in the area."

Now with the school closing, Masson said a lot will change.

"All the teachers and employees come by," Masson said. "The bus drivers come in. Some of them gas up here. Those kind of things will stop."

Masson is a retired teacher and a former school board member. She said she is not only worried about business slowing at the market, but also the town.

"The children are going to be hurt, the community is going to be hurt," Masson said. "And all for the sake of maybe $200,000."

Due to the closing students will be bused to city schools almost an hour away.

"I feel sorry for them being on the bus so early in the morning and staying so late on the bus," said community member Jennifer Delacerda.

Many see the school as the town's heart.

"I went to school there long ago, a lot of us did," said community member Amie Byone.

Byone lives 350 feet from the school that her child also attended, and many in the area still do.

"We are trying to build our community while they are trying to tear it down," Byone said. "I mean the government, the school board. This is a big loss for us. We don't have anything here as it is. At least we had the school."

With talks of a virtual school taking its place, Byone said she hopes it doesn't stay vacant.

"If it can't be open and won't be open, then let's do something where the kids will have somewhere to go and play," Byone said. "Some type of recreation."

In the near future, Masson thinks young families will move.

"It will turn into a retirement community instead of a family community," Masson said.

She said, long-term, the budget problems won't be solved with Cloutierville's closing.

"So now, what will they do," Masson said. "They have closed one school they are busing all these kids? Will they close another one?"

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