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BISD trustee confirms schools could face consolidation because of financial crisis

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BEAUMONT - The Beaumont Independent School District has announced that at its current rate of spending, it could end this school year in the red, and board trustee Janice Brassard confirms the district is considering the possibility of combining campuses of low-enrollment schools.

She said no decision has been made, but everything is on the table.

BISD has seven middle schools, five of them have an enrollment of more than 400, but Austin and King Middle Schools total about 600 students combined, which raises doubts about them being able to survive independently in the financially strapped district.

Brassard said, "There's the possibility of either combining schools, changing attendance zones possibly moving programs from one campus to another."

In order to cut costs, Superintendent Timothy Chargois, Ed.D has already recommended that secondary schools adopt a 28-to-1 ratio, that means 28 students per teacher in a classroom.

At Austin Middle School enrollment is at 268, under a 28-to-1 ratio, that means the school would only need 10 teachers, and over at King, enrollment currently stands at 335, under the 28-to-1 ratio, that would only leave about 12 teachers on that campus.

Brassard says such low numbers bring into question the cost effectiveness of keeping the schools operating.

Austin's principal, Dana Lewis, however, projects an increase of enrollment next school year of about 60 students, but even with that, Austin's student population would remain lower than King's.

Brassard says limiting students to the school zones where they live could be an option to help increase enrollment at these smaller populated campuses, and could also save on transportation expenses.

She said, "Diesel costs are astronomical, and our buses do 4 million miles a year right now."

And although nothing's been decided, Brassard says cuts cannot be avoided.

She said, "We're going to do some hard calls on what we're going to be eliminating."

Despite the criticism Brassard and other BISD officials have been facing concerning the cuts, that include layoffs, Brassard says she believes they have the support of the Texas Education Agency.

A TEA investigation recently led to Education Commissioner Michael Williams to place Conservator Fred Shafer over BISD.

Brassard said, "When we started discussing these layoffs, he didn't say a word, so that means he's aware of it, the commissioner is aware of it and we're not receiving any negative feedback from the commissioner at this point."

BISD Communications Director Jessie Haynes released a statement on behalf of Dr. Chargois Wednesday saying the pending layoffs keep the superintendent awake at night.

Chargois said, "It's a very tough thing to do as the laying off of employees not only impacts the economy of the Beaumont area, but it is also very person in the strain to be placed on some individuals and families, as well as the strain it will put on services the district provides to our students."

He went on to say, "The cuts are not on the backs of any one group of employees, it represents employees at all levels and disciplines."

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