Caddo school board votes to close 3 elementary schools to address budget shortfall

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Caddo School Board has voted to close three elementary schools and move students and staff to other campuses in the district.

In a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, the board voted 9 to 3 in favor of closing Arthur Circle Elementary, Jack P. Timmons Elementary, and Mooretown Elementary in an effort to address a $12 million budget shortfall brought on by declining enrollment coupled with the coronavirus pandemic.

Mooretown students will attend Oak Park Elementary starting this Fall, while Jack P. Timmons students, who are often on some of the longest bus routes in the district, would attend schools closer to their homes including Blanchard Elementary, Donnie Bickham Middle, Walnut Hill Elementary/Middle, and Turner Elementary/Middle.

Arthur Circle kids will attend Broadmoor STEM Academy, a prekindergarten through eighth-grade campus housed at Broadmoor Middle.

In a statement released following the vote, the board noted that no staff will lose their jobs in the transition and staff where possible will follow their students or have the opportunity to apply for vacant positions in the district

The consolidation plan was proposed after budget reviews for the 2020-2021 fiscal year found that, while the was district outperforming its current budget before the coronavirus pandemic, money had to be spent on addressing technology and foodservice needs once the outbreak began and sales tax revenue dropped as businesses closed or reduced operations.

The district says the decreases in revenue while experiencing unexpected costs resulted in an estimated $12 million budget deficit for the upcoming budget year beginning July 1.

On top of that, enrollment continues to decline. Since 2010, the district says it has lost nearly 4,500 students as Shreveport and Caddo Parish have seen young families leave, coupled with an aging population.

The rate at which the district has seen student enrollment declines has increased in recent years, causing the Board to evaluate options to decrease expenditures. Including Tuesday’s decision, the district has closed 20 campuses since 2000.

“The difficult decisions made by the Board today are an effort to ensure the future viability of our district and support students and teachers with access to programs and facilities not available at smaller campuses,” said Board President Mary Trammel. “These decisions never get easier and come with an understandable outcry from our community. We recognize and acknowledge the affect our vote has on our parish and such decisions are not made without great evaluation and contemplation.”

Dr. T. Lamar Goree, Superintendent of Caddo Schools, said the district’s next steps include creation of the Broadmoor STEM Academy, engaging with parents and stakeholders to make them aware of the changes, and placing staff in their positions before the upcoming school year.

“Our work now moves to taking the Board’s decision and making great opportunities for students and establishing strong academic programs to support each child’s academic needs,” Dr. Goree said.

The Caddo Parish School Board will meet on June 16 at 3 p.m. to approve its 2020-2021 consolidated annual budget. The budget year for the Board will run July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

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