EBR School Board to address attendance zones, programs

Remaking Polk and Brooks- town elementary schools and changing attendance zones to free space at Woodlawn Elementary all are up for votes at Thursday’s East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting.

The board is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. at the School Board Office, 1050 S. Foster Drive.

Many of the changes to be addressed Thursday grew out of discussions Superintendent Bernard Taylor initiated in early November to expand the school system’s magnet program, particularly its foreign language immersion options.

The center of foreign language is Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet, located in a dilapidated elementary school on the edge of downtown Baton Rouge.

Taylor initially proposed moving that program, which goes by the acronym BR FLAIM and focuses on Spanish and French, a mile south into the slightly larger, and in better repair, Polk Elementary.

After discussion with leaders and parents at those schools, Taylor is now suggesting keeping BR FLAIM as it is, for now, but expanding the program to Polk by slowly adding Spanish as well as Mandarin Chinese classes to that school.

Polk’s 227 students would be reassigned to nearby Buchanan and University Terrace elementary schools. However, Taylor is calling for a slow phase-out, starting with next year’s kindergartners. Older students would be allowed to finish at Polk.

When the board first discussed this on Nov. 7, board member Jill Dyason expressed displeasure. She urged against expanding the magnet program until attendance zones are redrawn to reduce crowding in some of the schools in her southeast Baton Rouge district, thus allowing gifted and other programs to expand.

In that vein, Thursday’s agenda includes a proposal to move 148 Woodlawn Elementary students to Jefferson Terrace Elementary and 78 students from Jefferson Terrace to Westminster Elementary. All the students being shifted live between Perkins Road and Interstate 10, east of Bluebonnet Boulevard. This is the first time the board will debate this proposal.

Board member Craig Freeman said he was prepared to wait to deal with all these changes until the board meeting on Jan. 16, which he said the superintendent wanted. But the late addition of the Woodlawn changes at the request of another board member led to him to insist that changes at Polk, as well as a proposal to create a middle school at Brookstown Middle, are discussed Thursday as well.

On the agenda are plans to spend $8.1 million this summer to renovate Polk and Brookstown elementary schools. Proposals for what will go in those spruced-up schools were not on the agenda, but Freeman said they are being added.

“If we’re going to decide something in December, let’s decide everything,” he said.