Teachers, students, staff and supporters at T.H. Watkins Elementary are breathing a sigh of relief after being taken off the chopping block, following a proposal at the Calcasieu Parish School Board Budget Committee meeting on Monday to consolidate the school.
The school was originally up for consolidation along with Reynaud Middle and Ralph Wilson Elementary. John F. Kennedy Elementary has been added to the list in the place of T.H. Watkins.
The proposed consolidations were an effort by the school board to close a projected $10 million shortfall in next year's budget.
Kay Victorian, principal at T.H. Watkins Elementary, said, "It's an emotional thing for me as the principal, because I love this school. I love these kids, and I love my parents, and overall just ecstatic."
Thanks to presentations by the school's administrators and teachers at the Tuesday school board meeting, the school is safe for now.
"The number of people who showed up last night to support Watkins... We realize we are a small school, but we are a small school that's working on getting bigger in other things," Victorian said.
Ashley Johnson, Instructional Coach at T.H. Watkins, also chimed in: "Shutting down schools is just not... Personally... the answer."
"We went out, we told parents we told teachers we had meeting we really just came together, and we collaborated and really executed a plan, and I think that was really important. I think that's what saved us," Johnson said.
School Board Superintendent Wayne Savoy says that the factors causing the deficit behind the two other schools' consolidation are something that is beyond his control.
"I can't control what Baton Rouge says or the retirement system says you have to pay as part of your obligation to your employee," Savoy said.
However, in an effort to make do with what they have, school closures and consolidations are the last resort before having to make staffing cuts.
"Educationally, we're going to try to do everything we can to make sure that children that dedicate themselves to learning will have every opportunity," Savoy said.
Savoy said these recommendations are nothing new, but that the schools' closures or consolidations are based on a teacher staffing formula that looks at school enrollment and future growth.
Savoy says he's confident the school board will balance their budget.
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