Two Union Parish Schools to Shut Down

The doors are closing at Bernice Elementary School and Spearsville Elementary School. The 200 students there will be moved to Farmerville starting with the 2014-2015 school year.

"I just hate to see the kids bused back and forth to Farmerville," mentioned Dennis Franklin, a Bernice school student's parent. "It's overcrowded."

Franklin disagrees with the Monday night decision by the union parish school board. As a Bernice parent, he says it'll cause a headache for next school year's commute.

"My child gets up at 5 every morning to get on the school bus by 6:30," said Franklin. "And he's probably going to have to get up a little earlier now to go to school in Farmerville."

The Union Parish School bus fleet is the most outdated in the state. It's a major safety concern according to Superintendent George Cannon.

"We're going to have to renew the fleet," voiced Superintendent Cannon. "It's at the point where I'm very concerned about the safety of our students because we're in buses that are 23 and 24 years of age."

The two schools being shut down are also in need of major updating - projects the district leaders say they can't afford.

"This is the last stage of that effort that had to take place because of reduced numbers in the student population and also reduced funding," mentioned Cannon.

Cost was the main factor for shutting the schools down with the board paying about $8000 per child at Bernice.

"We're spending about $5500 per child at elementary schools in Farmerville with a pretty varied program for those kids," said Cannon. "At the same time, we're spending about $11,000 per child in Spearsville with reduced program."

In order to generate more dollars for the schools, the board will have two taxes on the ballot in the upcoming election, this spring.

"We're going for both a property tax to renovate buildings and we're going for a sales tax that will permit us to have some programs in those schools that guarantee the quality of education that our kids deserve to be competitive to their counterparts," said Cannon.

If voters approve, the taxes will allow for necessary renovations and repairs to union parish school's facilities and transportation.

"What we're seeking is a better education and a better opportunity for their children. And that's all that this is about, nothing more," said Cannon.

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