Bernice High School to close
When the class of 2009 walks across the stage to receive its diploma this spring at Bernice High School, it will likely be the last graduating class for the western Union Parish School.
On Monday night the Union Parish School Board voted 5-4 to close down the high school portion of Bernice High School beginning in the 2009-10 school year.
The school will still offer pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Those high school students remaining at Bernice, who wish to remain in the Union Parish public school system, will attend Farmerville High School next year.
The emotional vote came after several parents of Bernice High School students expressed their displeasure with the board’s proposal to cease high school operations at the school.
Superintendent Steve Dozier said several factors played a part in the decision to close Bernice High School.
Declining enrollment, poor test scores and the financial drain on the district were the reasons Dozier cited for closing Bernice High School.
“Bernice High School is looking at 65 high school students as an exact count today,’’ Dozier said. “We’re spending an additional $225,000 each year at Bernice.’’
Since 2005, enrollment at Bernice High School has been on a steady decline. In October of 2005, Bernice had 121 students in grades 9-12. By October 2008, the number had declined to 71 and now stands at 65.
Since the 2004-05 school year, Bernice’s School Performance Scores have also been in decline. During the 2004-05 school year, Bernice’s SPS score was 74.9. Bernice’s SPS score for the 2007-08 year was 59.7. Following the 2007-08 school year, Bernice was placed in the School of Choice program for failing to meet the two-year average minimum on its SPS scores. As a result, this school year Bernice High School students had the choice to attend Farmerville or Spearsville High School.
Currently, Bernice High School does not offer several of the courses and activities available at Farmerville High School.
Also, the proximity of Louisiana Technical College – across the street from Farmerville High School – makes it much easier for students to participate in the cooperative agreement between the school district and technical college, which allows students to earn dual credit for taking vocational classes.
Although the vocational program is available to all students in the parish, none of the students currently enrolled at Bernice High School participate.
“There was more than one factor in this (decision),’’ Dozier said. “In my mind, it makes much better sense to bring (Bernice) students over. You have 65 kids with nine teachers and you’re still substandard? Something is wrong. My proposal will save money and provide an excellent opportunity with the technical college.’’
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