POINTE COUPEE PARISH, La. (WAFB) - The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board will meet Tuesday, Feb. 4, to go over several hot topics, including the school system’s ongoing financial issues, the possibility of closing a few schools, and the idea of sending children to class for only four days per week rather than five.
The school board tabled discussions on several highly contested issues at a meeting held Thursday, Jan. 23.
It was standing room only inside the school board room in Pointe Coupee Parish Thursday. Roughly 100 parents, teachers, and community members stood in the hallways to try to make their voices heard.
“We don’t want the schools to close. I mean, moving all the children to one school, that’s impossible,” said Cheryl Lee, a parent.
Around 25 people spoke out against the proposal to close Rougon Elementary and Upper Pointe Coupee Elementary.
“Rougon accepted me and welcomed me in when I didn’t know what I was doing. They became my family. If Rougon closes, you are forcing my dreams to come to an end before my dreams even got started,” said one Rougon Elementary teacher to the board Thursday.
"What happens if we don't make decisions? What happens if we run out of money? Does the state department take over all of our schools together? Do any of us get paychecks?" questioned one Upper Pointe Coupee teacher.
The school system is facing a $1.5 million budget deficit, so Superintendent Kim Canezaro was also pushing the possibility of a four-day school week.
"These are my recommendations. By all means, if somebody has a better way to find $1.5 million, I am ready to take your directive," said Canezaro during Thursday's meeting.
“It’s a crisis. That’s why people don’t trust us. They [the school board] didn’t steal any money because we don’t have any money to steal. We don’t have any money,” said one community member.
Most of the board members said they were against closing any schools in the parish and want to look at other ways to save money.
“Tell everyone here tonight, Rougon Elementary and Upper Pointe Coupee will not be closed, and that’s what I’m asking, and come up with alternative suggestions and alternative cuts, I sure can,” said board member, Frank Aguillard.
President of the board, Tom Nelson, says they will form a committee to meet with the superintendent to come up with ideas of what cuts they need to make to keep the school system afloat.
“We got input [Thursday], we’re going to get further input so that we can make the decisions that we have to make with community input,” said Nelson.
WAFB reached out to a spokesperson with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, who says it has considered going to a four-day school week as well, but it wouldn’t be as cost effective as originally thought.
Livingston Parish Superintendent Joe Murphy says a four-day school week is not an option.
It’s no secret that the Pointe Coupee Parish School System appears to be in financial trouble.
“It’s very important for the citizens of the parish to recognize how it would impact our school system,” said Kim Canezero, superintendent of Pointe Coupee Parish School System, back on Nov. 13, 2019.
Back then, she was pleading to voters to renew a tax that contributes more than $5 million to the school system’s annual budget. That tax renewal passed.
“I’m totally against any type of school closures, especially at this point. You start trying to transport young children all the way from the northern end of the parish to the southern end of the parish, you have an issue, because that’s a long way,” said Anita LeJeune, board member for District F, before the meeting Thursday.
Representatives from the NAACP New Roads Chapter also expressed their concerns about closing schools.
“We need the parish, not just the community, the parish, to come together as one,” said Myron Porche, president of the NAACP New Roads Chapter.
Parents have even voiced their concerns to the New Roads Chapter of the NAACP about the proposed changes, saying the process has been rushed, so the organization sent flyers across the parish urging people to pack the board meeting Thursday.
“The community was not involved in the planning process, so our concern is we want to sit at the table with them, and we want to have input on this reconfiguration,” said Bellazin.
The school board is also looking to hold a special meeting in February to discuss adding another millage on the ballot in the fall.
The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board will be making its decisions about all these potential cost-cutting measures Tuesday evening.