Plain Dealing schools to be consolidated?

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Amanda Simmons
amanda@bossierpress.com

Bossier Parish Schools is exploring ways to reconfigure Plain Dealing schools, which could include closing or consolidating campuses.
With 370 students currently enrolled on two school campuses, the school system is considering their options.

A board meeting recently revealed that Plain Dealing has already reached its projected enrollment for 2018. The last demographers report shows Plain Dealing’s enrollment will continue to decline.

Consolidating campuses in Plain Dealing would create one school to house pre-k through 12th grade students. School Board President Sandra “Samm” Darby (Dist. 10) said she is in favor of combining the schools.

“What I would like to see in Plain Dealing is a new [classroom] wing built on to their elementary school,” Darby said. “I’d like to see state-of-the-art technology, updated plumbing and electricity. I’m certainly in favor of us combining the schools and making it more accessible to the students in Plain Dealing.”

Board member Billie Jo Brotherton (Dist. 1) agreed with Darby that a wing should be built, but at the middle/high school campus.

“I think we need to close Carrie Martin [Elementary School]. That is my opinion,” Brotherton said.

Glen Bullard (Dist. 6) said the existing structure at Plain Dealing High School could possibly be reconfigured to meet the needs of a consolidated campus, but the campus would need facility upgrades to meet the needs of the younger students. Plain Dealing schools were supposed to receive $4 million from the $210 million construction program approved by parish voters in April 2012.

However, the school board restructured the remaining funds in March and left $750,000 for Plain Dealing schools.

“Yes, they need to be consolidated. I don’t think we have a choice,” Bullard said. “The question is how are we going to facilitate it from a funding standpoint. We are going to have to address the smaller children and their needs. There are some funding requirements and we aren’t going to be able to do that with $750,000.”

Bill Lott (Dist. 4) agreed that consolidation would be “the smartest option” because of “the numbers and the expense,” but said the bond money that was taken from Plain Dealing schools money should be given back to use on a new classroom wing.

“Prior to us coming on board, the previous board had set aside that money,” he said. “My concern is taking our teachers and students from a building that the board feels like is not worth spending continual money on and putting them into a building of the same statue that we’re going to repair and remodel. I don’t think that is fair to the students, the faculty or the parish that we do that.”

Another concern expressed by the board was if teachers and staff would lose their jobs. Superintendent Scott Smith said that would not happen.

“The only way to do that is if the entire school district was in financial distress,” Smith said. “They don’t have to worry about losing their job.”

The school board will receive updated enrollment numbers this month. Brad Bockhaus (Dist. 2) said he is in favor of consolidation, but he would like to see facility improvements done.

“We know these buildings are old and we know these things need to be improved,” he said. “We need to provide the best atmosphere and facility for the whole school.”