LAFAYETTE, LA — The Lafayette Parish School Board has tabled an item that would have directed the superintendent to come up with a solution to enrollment issues at the brand new Southside High School.
Former LPSS Superintendent Donald Aguillard, who is now running for District 9 representative, said the issue of rezoning was defered to the next board, who will not be seated until January 2020.
At the meeting, Jeremy Hidalgo, the representative for District 9, made a motion to defer the item. District 9 covers Youngsville and surrounding areas, and Southside High is located in District 9, according to The Daily Advertiser.
Hidalgo explained that the facility was meant to house 2,000 students. As of two days ago, Hidalgo said, Southside boasts 1,683 students, a higher number than other local schools. The number of students at Comeaux was 1,198. According to Britt Latiolais, District 5, Comeaux used to have 2,100 students.
Hidalgo said that when Southside was built, it was meant to hold a large number of students. He said that facilities in the school are larger than normal based on classroom count and that a new wing would cost $18.5 million dollars, which is "not a reality" right now.
Hidalgo added that, in his opinion, the notion that Southside is overcrowded is a "misstatement." He added that there is a place for every student at the school and hopes to move forward.
Public comments were accepted, and Leslie Bourque of District 8, proposed that the board create a committee including parents, business owners, and personnel, among others, to examine and discuss why enrollment numbers have changed so drastically at schools around the parish, but especially at Southside High.
Britt Latiolais, school board Vice President and representative of District 5, started the conversation about Southside's enrollment after he says he was contacted by parents and even other schools, wondering if Comeaux would continue to shrink.
He explained that his intent was not to harm or attack Southside, but to give Comeaux a voice.
"Comeaux High wanted a voice and some representation" because of lower enrollment rates, less faculty, and the possibility of losing academic courses.
He said the agenda item could have been added as an information item instead of an action item, because "it's an ongoing process."
Latiolais again reiterated that his intent was "not to harm Southside, but to give Comeaux a voice."
The motion to defer the item passed 9-0.
Also at tonight's meeting, the board approved the Blue Ribbon Committee recommendation to declare an excess distribution of $5,334,895 in the 2002 Half-Cent Sales Tax Fund and approved the payout of the excess to classroom teachers as defined in the Administrative Plan.
This would result in each eligible teacher receiving $1,902.67. Each teacher must be actively employed full-time to be eligible.
This is known as a "14th check," and would be included as a separate check, included on the same day that October 2019 payroll checks are deposited.
The board voted unanimously to pass this item.
At the meeting, Hidalgo said he had no date in mind in terms of when the agenda item will be discussed, but said the motion might be amended at some point.
Watch the video of the entire board meeting here, courtesy of LPSS.
Here's Jamie Angelle's story from earlier this week:
As the population of Southside High continues to grow in Lafayette Parish, the high school closest to it continues to see enrollment numbers drop.
That has parents of students at Comeaux High concerned and raising the question over what will be done to make sure their school won't be forgotten.
The board is set to discuss that topic this week. The school board member who is starting the conversation, Britt Latiolais, is based primarily in another district but he's been asked to address it in a board meeting.
Latiolais says Comeaux's enrollment numbers could affect how much money the school gets, how many teachers are there, and what kinds of programs they receive. "Their [Comeaux High enrollment numbers are dropping, they'd like it to be addressed, they feel like they haven't had much of a voice on the board lately," Latiolais said.
After hearing the concerns of citizens in the Comeaux district, Latiolais is asking the board to direct the superintendent to develop options for the board to consider later this year that will reduce enrollment at Southside High School starting in the 2020-2021 school year.
"If Southside balloons to 17, 18, or 1,900 students and Comeaux stays at 11, 12, or 1,300 that defeats the purpose of rezoning and why we did what we did," Latiolais said.
Demographer Mike Hefner, who works with the board to assess and align districts, says Comeaux's population was expected to shrink after the new school opened two years ago.
"Comeaux is going to lose some because they are moving out of the Comeaux zone and into the Southside zone," Hefner explained.
He adds that the school systems needs a few years of enrollment data from Southside before taking any sort of action on realignment.
"I would say to propose anything at this point, even though I haven't talked to anybody in any sort of official capacity, in my opinion, would be premature until we get an idea of what the projections are looking like," Hefner said.