Some parents, community activists oppose school closures proposed for Jefferson Parish

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 7:49 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

METAIRIE, La. (WVUE) - A recommendation to shutter and consolidate eight Jefferson Parish public schools amid declining enrollment was not well received by some parents, students and community activists.

The proposal from a consulting firm hired by the Jefferson Parish Public Schools was unveiled Monday night at a district board meeting. It drew immediate pushback on Tuesday (March 28).

Part of the proposal calls for merging students at Grace King High School in Metairie into Bonnabel High School five miles away in Kenner and Riverdale High School in Old Jefferson.

Shanita Williams disapproved of having her son -- a ninth-grader at Grace King -- sent to a different campus.

“I don’t feel like Grace King should convert over, because it’s a good school,” Williams said. “I don’t know if it’s going to mess up his learning situation, but I don’t feel like Bonnabel is. I just feel like Grace King is better.”

Consultants recommend closing 8 Jefferson Parish schools as enrollment falls

Another parent who did not want her name used expressed similar sentiments.

“She’s upset, all of her friends are here,” the woman said of her daughter. “I personally went to Grace King when I was her age as well. So, we’re not happy about it at all.”

The district’s student enrollment is dwindling, and some school board members said some campuses are suffering from “under-utilization.”

Vernon C. Haynes Middle School in Old Metairie is one of the eight schools that would close under the plan.

Mike Diaz lives near the school, which is located on Metairie Road.

“Cost drives everything and that’s going to run the government -- the cost. And if they’re losing students, they’ve got to consolidate somewhere,” Diaz said.

In Kenner, Granville T. Woods Elementary, which sits on the main street in the Lincoln Manor Subdivision, and Washington Elementary School, which are in predominantly Black communities also would be shuttered.

Debra Houston Edwards, a retired Jefferson Parish Schools administrator who is part of the organization Supporters of Washington, Inc., said her late mother Marguerite Houston was a JP Schools regional superintendent.

“The building behind us is the 87-year-old building,” she said. “The inside is the 87-year-old building that was constructed by our great-great grandfathers, who worked to make sure that we had a campus here at this school. And they were the foundation for that in 1936.”

Edwards said she not only wants the brick building preserved, but the rest of the campus rebuilt.

“I went to Washington, my mama went to Washington, my grandparents, and just about everybody in this community has a link or a connection with the Washington spirit of excellence,” Edwards said. “Washington has produced exceptional people throughout its history and so we don’t want to lose that.”

Under the plan, a new Pre-K through eighth-grade school would be built on the campus of Ralph J. Bunche Elementary in Metarie. Current Washington Elementary students would become part of that school.

On the west bank of Jefferson Parish, Butler and Mildred Harris elementary schools in Bridge City, George Cox Elementary in Timberlane, Thomas Jefferson Elementary in Gretna and Helen Cox Elementary in Harvey also would close.

Sandra Hauer, interim president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, said her union’s concern was with the district’s employees who would be affected.

“Not just teachers,” she said. “The school support staff, which includes our custodians, para-educators, our secretaries and clerks, everybody. It’s job preservation. It’s making sure that our employees that we have now still stay employed.”

She said the union’s executive board will meet soon to discuss the recommendations.

“Some of our members who are on the council, one of them their school’s being closed, another is being merged,” Hauer said. “And we have another one being relocated. So, we’ll have a variety of aspects coming to our meeting.”

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Click Here to report it. Please include the headline.