La Marque ISD considers closing some schools

March 7, 2012 2:51:15 PM PST
Like many school districts here in Texas and nationwide, La Marque ISD is trying to figure out how to deal with a large budget shortfall. During a meeting earlier this week an unpopular idea was brought up again -- closing schools.

The school board could decide Thursday night whether to close as many as two elementary schools in La Marque. The school district says it has got to do something to help make up for a projected $4.6 million deficit next year.

Outside Highlands Elementary in La Marque is a marquee which touts the theme of the month being loyalty. It's a trait some are asking if the school district really values.

Grandmother Bonnie McGill said, "It doesn't sit too cool with me."

McGill says loyalty would mean keeping Highlands open, not closing it as has been suggested.

"We need this school in our community," she said.

Highlands is one the schools La Marque ISD may shutter, along with Sims Elementary. It's expected to add up to a cost savings between the two schools of $450,000.

In that plan all first through fourth grade students district-wide would be moved to the campus currently being used as the middle school. Inter-City Elementary would become a fifth and sixth grade campus. Westlawn Elementary would be used then as a seventh and eighth grade facility.

One of the complaints about the closure of Sims is due to its rich history. It's named after Professor Pinkney S. Sims, who was principal of two La Marque schools for African American students in the early portion of the 20th century.

"Sims is where the history is, you know, in this district," said grandmother Patsy Henderson.

Under another proposal, Inter-City Elementary would be shut down. Its 300-plus students would be absorbed at the district's three other elementary schools. That would save La Marque ISD $363,000. Parents are already asking how this could affect them.

Mother Niki Ortega asked, "How many kids are going to have to depend on transportation that don't have transportation now?"

Other options include repurposing campuses but not closing any. Superintendent Ecomet Burley refused to sit down with us to clarify options today. But he reportedly said publicly at a town hall meeting Monday night that the district's dire financial situation requires them to find ways to better maximize facility use.

The school board is set to discuss the possible closures Thursday at 7pm at the La Marque ISD administration office.