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Huntington School to decide on future soon

FERRIDAY — The future of 40-year-old Huntington School could be determined in the next two weeks.

The school has faced slumping enrollment since the 1980s, and is currently down to 120 students. Principal Ray King said the school board has been open about the possibility that it might have to close its doors.

“We haven’t denied that at any point this year,” he said. “We started the year with a budget based on 150 kids and we only have 120.”

The school’s board of directors has been meeting every week since October, and King said the school has just finished an annual fundraiser that will allow it to finish this year in the black.

And, depending on what the directors see with the fundraiser results and the letters of intent from parents for next school year, they could decide to continue for another year or vote to close the school, King said.

That’s a decision King said he expects to see in the next two weeks.

The current count for the letters of intent nearly matches the current enrollment, he said.

“They could sift through the information they have and decide we will keep plugging, and they might decide otherwise,” he said. “This is a corporation and we are looking at the bottom line if we can make it work economically, and if we can’t we are not going to do anything that is not fiscally responsible.”

At mid-term, the school consolidated the kindergarten and first grades, third and fourth grades and fifth and sixth grades.

King said to do so is common and was not a move of desperation.

“We had such small classes there we couldn’t justify having a teacher for some of those grades, and our budget projections were not met as far as enrollment is concerned,” he said.

“We probably should have done it several years ago, because elementary was where we lacked students. Our elementary grades haven’t been well attended, and we have debated the reason for that and don’t understand it, because we feel our elementary program matches up with everyone’s.”

While there has been mention of having the school operate only for the grades 7-12, King said it was never seriously considered.

“The people who place their children in the school in the elementary, those are the ones who always seem to be the people who are die-hard Huntington people and will be here under any circumstances and are willing to put up the work, and we would eliminate that support if we cut out those grades,” he said.

Huntington School was started in 1970, and had an initial enrollment of more than 700 students.

By the 1980s, the population of Concordia Parish had started to decline, and that decline was reflected at Huntington, King said.

“In Ferriday it has been an even more pronounced loss of population, and especially the population we have served has decreased,” he said.”

Last year’s graduating class of 27 had an impact on the school’s overall enrollment.

“You hope to replace (graduating seniors) with an incoming class of kindergartners, and this year we only enrolled seven (kindergartners),” King said.

Huntington has an anticipated graduating class of seven seniors this year.

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