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Parents upset about proposed school closures

Thursday, March 10, 2011 - 3:39pm

Parents in Blanchard are upset and speaking out after the Caddo Parish School Board proposed the closing of one of their schools.

One parent after another echoed each other saying they believe closing down Blanchard Elementary School is not a good decision for their children.  In the Caddo Parish Public Schools Vision 2020 plan, the school board proposed that Blanchard Elementary School close their doors and Donnie Bickham Middle School become a K-8 school.

Michelle Schweitzer, who has a son in the eighth grade at Donnie Bickham, is concerned that the school does not have enough classroom space to support students from kindergarten to eighth grade.  Blanchard parents got a letter from the elementary school on Wednesday saying that only 11 classrooms are ready at Donnie Bickham, but the consolidation would require 33 classrooms for the students.

One of parents' biggest concerns is having to move their kids from their comfort zone at Blanchard Elementary School to a larger school with older students.  If they started off in that environment, then that would be fine, said Lisa Bumgardner, whose third grade daughter goes to Blanchard Elementary.  But she believes that since they are not used to having the older students in the same school, the change will be a shock to them.  Christine Dungen, whose fourth grade son goes to Blanchard Elementary, added that she is worried the elementary school students will not perform as well in school if they are thrown into this new situation.

Parents hope, by speaking out, they can change the minds of school board members who want to combine more than five Caddo Parish Schools by next year.  The proposed plan also includes combining existing Ridgewood with portions of Forest Hill, Summer Grove and Southern Hills, existing Green Oaks with Newton Smith and existing Booker T. Washington with J.S. Clark.  This plan would close Newton Smith and J.S. Clark.  These school combinations would help make up for district budget problems.

On Wednesday, teachers at the school allowed students to write letters to school board members and form a petition showing their support to keep the school open.  Blanchard Elementary School parents scheduled a meeting to discuss the issue at the school for Monday, March 14 at 5 p.m.

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