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La Joya school board votes to keep Leo Elementary and Benavides Elementary open for another year

It’s official: The La Joya Independent School District will keep Leo J. Leo Elementary School and Rosendo Benavides Elementary School open for another year.

During a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, the school board voted 7-0 to keep Leo Elementary and Benavides Elementary open.

Both campuses, however, must boost enrollment to 410 students and maintain 95% average daily attendance. If they don’t, La Joya ISD could shut them down.

“We wanted to make sure that we gave our schools a fighting chance for everybody to come together and work towards increasing the enrollment,” said board President Alex Cantu.

Trustees voted to shut down Leo Elementary and Benavides Elementary in January amid concerns about enrollment.

The number of students enrolled at Leo Elementary dropped from 619 in October 2012 to 372 in October 2022, according to data published by the Texas Education Agency. Enrollment at Benavides Elementary, meanwhile, dropped from 502 in October 2012 to 285 in October 2022.

Fewer students resulted in less state funding. To reduce costs, administrators recommended that La Joya ISD close both campuses and send students to other schools.

About 50 employees work at each school, according to data La Joya ISD released under the Texas Public Information Act. The district planned to offer some employees jobs at other campuses. Not all employees, though, would be transferred to comparable positions.

Pushback from parents and teachers persuaded the board to keep the schools open.

During a meeting in mid-February, trustees said they wanted to provide Leo Elementary and Benavides Elementary with another year to boost enrollment. The school board followed through Wednesday, when trustees unanimously approved a resolution to keep both campuses open.

“Whereas, the Board recognizes the need for ensuring that Leo J. Leo Elementary and Rosendo Benavides Elementary remain open in order to provide the most opportunities to all students and their families for the upcoming school year,” according to the resolution. “Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Board of Trustees of the La Joya Independent School District that: The Board of Trustees directs administration to keep open Leo J. Leo Elementary and Rosendo Benavides Elementary for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year.”

Meeting the enrollment targets may be difficult.

Leo Elementary needs another 38 students to stay open. Benavides must somehow find 125 students.

Administrators pledged to work closely with principals to meet the enrollment targets.

“The district administration will be providing support by planning district recruitment and retention activities to assist them in those endeavors,” Assistant Superintendent Martin Muñoz told the school board on Wednesday.

Cantu said La Joya ISD can meet the enrollment targets if everyone works together.

“It’s going to take all of us to make sure that we give our schools a chance to grow the numbers,” Cantu said.

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