Rapides Parish School Board approves school zone plan

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - In an attempt to save failing schools, the Rapides Parish School Board Tuesday night approved a plan to consolidate 12 schools in the district.

By a 7-2 vote, the Board approved the community zone plan.

The decision comes after Rapides Parish Superintendent Nason Authement proposed his 'Community Schools' plan for three new school zones.

The proposal will create three school zones that would impact approximately 4,500 students within these 12 schools. The first zone will be composed of Lessie Moore Elementary for PreK-3, Pineville Elementary for 4-6, and Pineville Junior High for 7-8. The second zone will be composed of D.F. Huddle Elementary for PreK-K, North Bayou Rapides Elementary for 1-3, L.S. Rugg Elementary for 4-5, Julius Patrick Elementary for 6, and Alexandria Middle Magnet for 7-8. The third zone will be composed of Acadian Elementary for PreK-K, Martin Park Elementary for 1-3, Alma Redwine Elementary for 4-5, W.O. Hall Elementary for 6, and Arthur F. Smith Middle for 7-8.

Authement said this proposal would get rid of 22 teaching positions, however he said no teacher will lose a job. He also said that in a traditional elementary or middle school teachers only have so many colleagues to collaborate with. Under his new proposal, teachers would have a lot of colleagues who teach the same material to turn to.

The vote finally came Tuesday night after more than an hour of public comment.

Superintendent Nason Authement said the vote was necessary in order to help failing schools.

"We have got to implement a comprehensive intervention plan for those schools that have been identified by the state department under ESSA as being in need of comprehensive intervention," Authement said to the board.

At the start of the meeting the board room was at capacity with a mix of parents, teachers and principals, many with an opinion to share.

"It is time for us to do something different," said AMMS Principal Dennis Stewart.

Some were for the community schools plan. Once audience member spoke at the podium and said he was a product of community schools.

"That system produced quality students, the reason is simple, the resources were concentrated."

Still, some audience members were upset with the vote.

"I will definitely be looking into other school options for Juliana," said Renee Cunnikin. "I just don't feel comfortable with them taking her and moving her around. Children have to adjust to change."

Board members John Allen and Willard McCall both voted against the plan, with McCall wondering why they hadn't heard of a community schools option earlier.

"If they are so good around the state why weren't we given that information prior to this meeting," McCall said.

Although, many admit it's not yet the perfect plan, Pineville Elementary Principal Dr. Erin Stokes said she'll try anything to help her students.

"It is better then what we have now," said Dr. Stokes. "The benefits definitely outweigh the negatives in my opinion. We will get an art teacher, more resources and a laser light focus on the grades that we need to focus on."

Earlier in the meeting a substitute motion was proposed to delay the vote pending legal review. However, four board members voted against it.

Authement said the next step moving forward is to start working on figuring out how to place principals and then teachers.

The board also passed the Pupil Progression Committee's new grade promotion policy. Effective immediately, low scores on LEAP 2025 state assessments will affect the grade promotion of fourth and eighth graders in Rapides Parish. For the full details visit the attached article link.

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