SATSUMA – While the Livingston Parish school system could eliminate up to 42 teaching positions, what happens in the next four months could affect that number.
“We have to go with what our numbers show and our numbers show we’re down 500 or so students,” School Superintendent Rick Wentzel said after his presentation at the annual Chamber of Commerce State of Education/Scholarship Breakfast.
“The impact of that is the state gives us less money, so we have to prepare for that,” he said. “It’s a financial thing. That’s why we had to eliminate some spots.”
Wentzel said the school system can’t wait until the last minute to budget for the 2017-18 school year and have to be prepared for less state funding if those students don’t return.
During his State of Education address, Wentzel put the number of students lost at 578.
His presentation showed the school system’s enrollment in February 2016 was 25,843 and topped 26,000 when the 2016-17 school year began that August.
Two months after the Great Flood of 2016, the enrollment was 25,994 and by this February, it was 25,295.
Denham Springs area schools could feel the impact the most, since it was the hardest hit area by flooding.
Both Denham Springs Elementary and Southside Elementary have lost six positions each. Both schools are on temporary campuses at other schools.
However, several things could change how many teaching slots are cut.
Registration for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten does not end until the first week of May, so the school system won’t know until then how many of those grade-level teachers will be needed.
Meanwhile, homeowners continue to repair flooded residences, which will bring more schoolchildren back, the superintendent said.
“As we see, from here until the beginning of school, if the numbers increase in those schools, we’ll be able to increase those teacher slots as those students come back,” Wentzel said.
“The reduction that we’re going to have to go through is going to be handled by attrition, by retirement, resignations,” he said. “We hope that will take care of that.
“We will bring teachers back,” Wentzel said. “We know people are going to come back. They’re starting to build in some places. It’s just a process we’re going to have to go through.
“We’ll be bringing them back, we just have to get our numbers back up.”
Wentzel said he recently talked with the school superintendent in St. Tammany Parish.
“He said it took five years to get back to their numbers before Katrina hit. We won’t be that long,” Wentzel said.
Kevin Fambrough is a reporter at the Livingston Parish News. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @fambroughkevin.