Lee High School may or not be called Lee High when it reopens this fall after three years on hiatus.
“We want to keep the school the same name,” Errol Taylor, a graduate of Lee High and parent of five children in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, told an audience of about 150 people Thursday night.
The School Board voted in May to reopen Lee High for the 2012-13 school year, which starts Aug. 8, but put off until this month deciding almost everything else connected with the school, including whether it will keep its name. The board plans to meet next on June 21.
The gathering Thursday at Mayfair Middle was a community forum that aimed to help incoming Superintendent Bernard Taylor, who was present but doesn’t start work officially until Monday, decide what to do.
The audience, organized into 12 small groups, came up with a variety of alternative names for the revamped school. Many focused on names tied to south Baton Rouge such as Southdowns, Southside, Highland and College Town. One idea was to name it after a famous Baton Rouge resident.
Residents attending Thursday’s forum also discussed how the school’s attendance zone should be drawn, what kind of specialized or magnet programs it should include and how the new school can engage parents and the community.
“I hate that we’re having to do it so quickly,” said Cheryl Lott, the mother of three children in Baton Rouge public schools and opponent of the recent failed attempt to create a new Southeast Baton Rouge school district. “I wish we have another year to really do it right, but those other schools need relief.”
She was referring to crowding at McKinley, Woodlawn and, to a lesser extent, Tara high schools, all of which added students when Lee High was closed in the summer of 2009 to avert a potential state takeover.
Crowding at Woodlawn High and clashes between former Lee High and Woodlawn students were cited by some supporters of the new breakaway district during debates on the topic.
Errol Taylor, who spoke for one of the 12 small groups, said the new school should have sufficient financial support, one of the things he said ensured the failure of the original Lee High.
“We want to make sure that our school has as many programs as we can think of,” Taylor said.
The groups came up with several possible programs to offer at the school from welding, to performing arts, to offering an International Baccalaureate program.
Superintendent Taylor, however, said some new programs will be more difficult to do than others. He noted that the International Baccalaureate program, an internationally focused high school curriculum similar to Advanced Placement, is not cheap.
The program allows high school students to earn college credits while in high school.
“If we do, we will now have to find funding and partners,” Taylor said.
Charles James, a sixth-grade math teacher at Mayfair Middle and spokesman for one of the small groups, had an idea for a partner. He suggested talking to the new L’Auberge Baton Rouge Casino, scheduled to open later this summer. James said that students at a reopened Lee High could have internships with the new casino.
“That would be great for kids, so they could see for themselves what it’s like in those kinds of service jobs,” James said.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the forum were the maps. The school system printed out small color maps show the existing attendance zones for McKinley, Tara and Woodlawn high schools. Using markers, each group drew its own ideal attendance zones on the maps.
Superintendent Taylor said he plans to review the comments, sample maps and ideas generated Thursday carefully as he decides what he’s going to recommend to the School Board next week.
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