Gorenflo may close as elementary school

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Few can forget the excitement on December 4th, 2006, the day Gorenflo Elementary School reopened for the first time since Katrina flooded the building. But, Gorenflo never fully recovered when it came to its student population.

"What we've seen at Gorenflo is that the student enrollment has basically been level for the past three years, about 150 students, give or take a few students," said Biloxi Superintendent Dr. Paul Tisdale.

Meanwhile, the superintendent says enrollment has increased at two other elementary schools nearby, Nichols and Lopez .

Here are the numbers:

Jan. 06               Jan. 09

Gorenflo:     155                      149

Lopez:         184                      216

Nichols:       140                      231

Also, there's more housing opening up around those schools, but there's no new development in the Gorenflo zone. That's why Tisdale recommends closing Gorenflo as an elementary school and finding a new purpose for the Elder Street building.

If that happens, Gorenflo students would relocate to either Nichols or Lopez. Gorenflo teachers and staff would fill other vacancies in the district. Tisdale says the move would save the district about $400,000 a year in salaries.

"Particularly at a time when budget cuts come down from the state periodically and the national situation financially, it comes at a cost, at a very bad time to bear additional costs, to keep one of those schools open," said Tisdale.

If Gorenflo shuts down as an elementary school, the superintendent says the five year old building would be used for other educational purposes. Some of the options include an alternative school, a special education program for preschoolers, an 'Excel By Five' preschool program, a toy library, a parent center or a community education program for adult classes.

Dr. Tisdale says he understands that losing a school would be hard on the community.

"Folks get emotional about that. A lot of memories. Sometimes, and quite frequently, tougher on parents than it is on the kids," said Tisdale.

Tisdale says all the elementary schools in Biloxi will have even fewer students this fall, when the sixth graders move to a separate school, the current Michele Seventh Grade.  The school board will meet next Thursday to discuss the recommended changes.

"One option they may choose is let's keep all three schools open for another year," said Tisdale. "I suspect though, what will happen is we'll need to repurpose one of those schools.  Use it differently in the future."