Baton Rouge, LA (NBC33) — Parents and teachers said Monday they needed more details before they could support the East Baton Rouge School District's proposal to create regional attendance zones.
Superintendent Bernard Taylor unveiled the foundation of the plan during a forum at Capitol Elementary School.
He described four areas within the district that would contain "school families." Parents who live within that zone could send their children to any school in that family, as opposed to the school closest to their house.
"Making sure that all students have the broadest array of choice options available to them is one of our goals in what we're endeavoring to do with this proposal," he said.
Taylor told principals that they would have to apply free-market ideas to their schools, "because you're going to have to retain students, you're going to have to attract students, because no longer will we be assigning students to school based on one's address."
Taylor said some of the elementary and middle schools in each family would convert to magnet schools to provide more innovative and challenging programs. Teachers who attended the forum said a focus on magnet schools would threaten the jobs of the faculty at traditional schools.
"You're leaving a level of student that it's going to be difficult to meet the criteria that we have to meet," said Ingrid Starling, a teacher at Capitol Elementary.
Parents asked that the magnet schools have a specific focus, whether that be foreign language immersion, math and science, or something else.
"Because children that know a second language, and children that play instruments, they excel," said Pamela Keys.
The idea is in its infancy, and the district is asking for help shaping it during these meetings. But parents said they had more questions than answers.
"Where did you all come up with this proposal," asked one woman. "Where was it tried? How did it affect the region, wherever it was? How many children did it affect? Different things like that. We don't have enough information."
Three more forums will be held this week, one in each of the other proposed regions. The next meeting will be Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. at Scotlandville Magnet High School. A meeting will be held at Woodlawn High School on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m., and another will take place at Glen Oaks High School on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.