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Terrebonne considers closing four schools

Houma, La. - Terrebonne Parish schools let out for the summer this week. And for some students and teachers, that could be the last time on their current campuses.

District officials are considering consolidating schools in an effort to save money.

Under Superintendent Philip Martin's plan, four campuses would be closed: Boudreaux Canal Elementary in Chauvin, Dularge Elementary and West Park Elementary in Houma, along with Greenwood Middle in Gibson.

"A combination of factors makes it necessary. The most obvious is finances," says Martin. "It's much more efficient when you consolidate and many of these schools are very small. Even the consolidated numbers, they're still going to be considered small schools after the consolidation process."

Martin says part of the consolidation plan was in place before voters turned down a significant millage increase for schools. Without that additional funding, the district faces a $6 million shortfall next year.

"We're still here to educate and that's our priority. And whatever the public dictates to us, that's what we have to follow because we're elected and we're accountable by our taxpayers," says School Board President Roger Dale DeHart.

DeHart knows the idea of closing the four campuses won't sit well with some families. Generations have passed through Dularge Elementary in his district. The school is nearly 100 years old.

But the superintendent says sentimental value won't pay the bills.  

Martin says the school district has always been able to make do, even with limited funding. But he believes something will have to change soon if the parish wants to remain competitive both in education and industry.

"I think it's in the best interest of our district to have an educationally sound and a financially strong and solid school district," he says. "That's on everybody's plate."

The board may consider asking for another millage increase, this one not as large as the proposal that just failed.

A few properties may be sold and along with the proposed campuses closings, the board will consider eliminating 60 open positions.

This isn't the first time Terrebonne's school district faced a major deficit. Still, it remains one of the top districts in the state.

"Everyone knows you can't stay in that mode forever and ultimately, those successes are going to become fewer and less frequent and perhaps not as significant as they could be," says Martin.

The board will consider the proposal at their meeting Tuesday night.

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