‘Drastic measures’ needed if Red River Charter opens
If Red River Charter Academy (RRCA) is given a green light to open in the 2019-20 school year, it could force the Avoyelles School Board to close and/or reorganize schools, Superintendent Blaine Dauzat told the board this past Tuesday.
Dauzat conceded that it is “quite possible” the proposed charter school will be approved this year. RRCA officials have said the school will open as a middle school for grades 6-8 and then add a high school grade each year after that until it is a 6-12 high school.
Dauzat said the charter school would have a $1 million impact on the public school district the first year and up to a $3 million yearly impact by the fourth year.
“Another charter school is quite possible,” Dauzat told board members. “We have already cut $3.5 million from the budget and another $3 million will be devastating.
“The closures or reorganizing of schools will have to be put on the table,” he continued. “You can only stretch a dollar so far.”
Dauzat noted the school system began discussions with RRCA board members this past Wednesday (April 11).
If the two sides can reach an agreement, Red River could open under the umbrella of the Avoyelles School District -- similar to how LaSAS operates as a grade 7-12 high school.
Avoyelles Public Charter School is an independent K-12 school approved by the state Board of Elementary & Secondary Education.
If the School Board does not approve RRCA’s charter by early June, the proposed school’s officials can appeal to BESE to become an independent public school. BESE usually makes those decisions in October.
“This is not a pressing issue at this moment, but in the next six to 12 months decisions will have to be made concerning the start of school in the 2019-2020 year,” Dauzat continued. “We need to look at different ideas that will give us some savings.”
In addition to closing schools, Dauzat said the district could consider “clustering” elementary schools. Instead of six full elementary schools, the six schools would be divided by grades.
For example, he said, Lafargue Elementary and Marksville Elementary could be paired in the Marksville High zone, with one school housing grades Pre-K-2 and the other having grades 3-6.
The same could be done with Cottonport and Bunkie elementaries in the Bunkie Magnet zone and Riverside and Plaucheville elementaries in the Avoyelles High zone.
Clustering could save the cost of one or two teachers at each elementary school.
Another possibility would be to return to a four-day school week, which the parish tried several years ago.
Dauzat said the schedule wasn’t done properly when implemented before.
If the district implemented a four-day week, the block schedule in high schools would have to be scrapped.
Public meetings would be held to gather input from parish residents before the district moved forward with any significant changes, Dauzat assured.
“There is a very real chance another charter school will open and our system can’t handle it,” Dauzat said. “We would have to take drastic measures. We want to make the public aware of this now because we don’t want people to say we sprung this on them.”
The superintendent said communities could lose their schools -- elementary and high schools -- if closures have to be made. No community is safe, regardless of their school’s current school performance score, he added.
“This will affect everyone and school attendance lines will have to be re-drawn,” Dauzat continued. “Every school in our system will be affected. There will be hard decisions to be reached in the next 12 months.”