The Biloxi School Board has directed Superintendent Dr. Paul A. Tisdale to determine the impact of re-purposing one of three Biloxi elementary schools – Beauvoir, Lopez or Gorenflo – and report findings to the board in two weeks.
Tisdale, who had earlier suggested transferring Gorenflo students to other schools, said board members wanted to consider several options before making a decision.
The board, saddled with a student enrollment that is 20 percent off its pre-Katrina figure, is seeking ways to reduce costs. The district received word from the Mississippi Department of Education last week that recent state budget cuts will immediately impact the district to the tune of $700,000. The State Superintendent of Education and the Governor have made it clear that the fiscal picture for school districts will be worse next school year.
“Re-purposing is a decision that’s going to be based on a number of factors and will not be made lightly,” Tisdale said. "We have three elementary schools in east Biloxi whose student enrollment remains depressed from pre-Katrina figures: Gorenflo is down 60 percent, Lopez is down 31 percent and Nichols is down 30 percent. There is a cost attributed to operating and maintaining schools with low student enrollments, which becomes more difficult to justify given the fiscal challenge school districts are facing.”
The re-purposed school would house other educational programs, Tisdale has said. “We’re not ‘closing’ any school,” he added. “We anticipate re-locating the district’s alternative school, re-locating pre-kindergarten services, housing components of the Excel by 5 community initiative for pre-schoolers, and the possibility of offering community education classes to the public.”
Re-purposing one of the three schools will result in student reassignments to other elementary schools. Lopez is south of Keesler Air Force Base between the base runway and U.S 90. Gorenflo is two blocks south of IP and Boomtown casinos; Nichols Elementary is a third of a mile east of Gorenflo.
The possibility of re-purposing an elementary school was first raised a year ago. Tisdale recommended delay for another year in hopes that student enrollment in east Biloxi would increase significantly.
Tisdale is expected to present the findings at a Board Workshop tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 12, at the DuKate Building on Father Ryan Avenue.
--- To see pre- and post-Katrina weekly enrollment figures for schools in the Biloxi Public School District, click here.
--- For more on Beauvoir Elementary School and to find a link to the school’s web page, click here.
--- For more on Lopez Elementary School and to find a link to the school’s web page, click here.
--- For more on Gorenflo Elementary School and to find a link to the school’s web page, click here.