Biloxi to consider closing three schools; Parents say bad idea - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi to consider closing three schools; Parents say bad idea

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Budget cuts could force some Biloxi children to attend different schools in August. Biloxi School Superintendent Paul Tisdale says the district has set a goal to save $3.5 million next fiscal year in anticipation of state funding cuts. On Tuesday, the school board will consider whether part of the savings plans should include closing three schools.

For Haroun Boras going to school is just a matter of walking the across the street. He says he's a proud first grader at Beauvoir Elementary.

"I like all my kids, and they're doing pretty good," says Haroun. "I like everybody.'

Beauvoir could soon be closing its doors. The Biloxi School Board is considering shutting down the school and dividing its 350 students between Popp's Ferry Elementary and Jeff Davis Elementary.

Atman Bouras is Haroun's father. "In this neighborhood there's a lot of kids going to the school. It's close to us. If they close down, it's a bad idea."

Another parent, Allyson Culpepper, says she worries that too many students will be crammed into the other schools. She's also concerned about the teachers at Beauvoir. ""All those teachers would lose their jobs. They would have no jobs and there's no sense in them having to lose their jobs."

Britney Alton says her son is supposed to start kindergarten at Beauvoir next year.

"Because when I went there, was just a very good school," said Alton. "It was fun, educational. You learned a lot."

School officials say budget cuts are necessary in part because after Hurricane Katrina the district lost 1,300 students, and therefore, $5.5 million in state funding.

"I know people are emotionally invested in their child's school. It may be the school that they attended," says Dr. Tisdale. "But these are extraordinary times following an extraordinary event. Nobody could have predicted that we would have such a recession right on the heels on Hurricane Katrina."

Tisdale says closing schools would save money in utilities, custodial work, and employee salaries.

"There is likely to be a reduction in force. Although we're still looking at the probability really that a number of teachers may not be employed for next year," Dr. Tisdale says. "It's no comfort but the fact is this happening across the state."

The school board is also considering closing Michel Sixth Grade School and Nichols Elementary in East Biloxi. Officials say that would mean sixth graders would attend Biloxi Junior High School and the Nichols students would go to Gorenflo Elementary.

Dr. Tisdale pointed out some of the reasons why school closings are on the table. He says at its peak, gaming provided $7 million a year for the school district. That's down to about $5.4 million with $2.5 million of that already set aside to pay for the new Biloxi High School.

He also says the amount the district pays into the employee retirement plan has increased and is adding another $500,000 in cost. Tisdale says two administrative positions have been cut and another will be eliminated next year.

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