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Plain Dealing rallies behind schools

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Bossier Schools Superintendent Scott Smith takes a question from a Plain Dealing resident at a town hall meeting last week.

Amanda Simmons
amanda@bossierpress.com

The town of Plain Dealing is rallying behind its community schools.

Bossier Parish Schools is exploring ways to reconfigure their two school campuses, which could include closing or consolidating schools. Recent discussions have some residents wondering what exactly will happen.

A town hall meeting was held with Bossier Schools Superintendent Scott Smith and School Board member Bill Lott. Both told the standing room only crowd that there had been no vote by the school board to close any schools in Plain Dealing.

“There never was a vote to shut down Carrie Martin Elementary,” Smith said. “The vote that the building and grounds committee came up with was to look at studying the possibilities for the Plain Dealing community, looking at Carrie Martin Elementary, looking at Plain Dealing junior/senior high to see what can be done. All we have right now are numbers from the demographer’s report.”

That report shows about 360 students currently attending Plain Dealing schools. The demographics, which Smith pointed out could be wrong, says that number will drop to a little over 140 for elementary through high school over the next 10 years.

“Because of the numbers, it makes us have to look at this to ensure that we are spending tax payer dollars wisely and efficiently,” Smith said, “all while making sure we are providing the very best education for our kids.”

The demographer will present updated numbers to the building and grounds committee Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 4:30 p.m. at the Bossier Instructional Center. Smith said there are many things to consider — the cost and cost savings, school curriculums, maintenance, planning and development. He encouraged residents to attend the committee meetings and board meetings to voice their opinions.

“You always have an opportunity for input,” Smith said. “One thing is for sure, just by the number of people that are in here, Plain Dealing is a viable community. Plain Dealing is a viable town and we should be able to keep that structure right here. The schools are a very important part of that.”

Plain Dealing resident Stephanie Gafford asks a question during the town hall meeting last week. Gafford has two children enrolled in Plain Dealing schools and is fighting to keep their schools open and on separate campuses.

Plain Dealing resident Stephanie Gafford asks a question during the town hall meeting last week. Gafford has two children enrolled in Plain Dealing schools and is fighting to keep their schools open and on separate campuses.

Elizabeth Foster said Plain Dealing schools have given her son a great education.

“I got a great education here, my husband got one and so did my whole family,” Foster said. “I don’t want to see these schools go anywhere. I’m from here. I grew up here. We seem to be the forgotten school.”

Smith said the final decision will ultimately come from the school board.

“It’s going to take a lot of investigation. The decision be a compilation of a lot of different people that would be brought before the board and the school board can decide from there what to do,” Smith said. “This doesn’t just come from me or Mr. Lott. It can only come collectively from the school board.”

This was the first town hall meeting called for Plain Dealing. Smith said he would like to go back once more information has been gathered.

“I do promise you this, this could take a while,” Smith said. “I don’t anticipate anything being done by the next school year. It has to be done right and that takes time. I know the board, as a whole, wants to make sure it’s done right.”

Sheila Dupree felt there was viable dialogue, but didn’t get all the answers to her questions.

“I’m a product of Plain Dealing schools. This is home. I plan to stay here and I would love to see our school system continue to grow here,” she said. “It’s great to see the superintendent and school board interested in coming and speaking to us so we can hopefully move forward with our future in this community.”