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School structure change?

NATCHEZ — When students dart for the pool on their last day of school this summer, the furniture, teachers and administrators they leave behind might be following them out the door.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Natchez-Adams School Board, all five school board members and the interim superintendent confirmed they want schools to be reorganized as early as this summer.

Restructuring grade levels at each school seemed an eminent possibility, as everyone with a voice at the boardroom table agreed that the public schools should have three “neighborhood schools,” serving kindergarten through fifth grade, a single middle school for sixth through eighth graders and a single high school.

Though the board didn’t take action Wednesday, their position was clear going into a Tuesday meeting with Gary Bailey, an educational and architectural consultant the district hired to conduct a study of the district’s organization and facilities.

Momentum of the board’s conversation quickly switched from the question of whether to reorganize, to details about what facilities would house the newly structured schools.

After talk about the cost of moving furniture from one school to another came up, board member David Troutman checked in with Interim Superintendent Joyce Johnson to see if there were any reasons to pump the breaks on the reorganization conversation.

Troutman acknowledged Johnson’s early support of neighborhood schools before asking her if any other unforeseen issues may have popped up since then that should prompt the board to delay making moves to reorganize.

“Maybe (is there an issue that would) put it off a year?” Troutman asked.

“No,” Johnson answered simply.

Johnson also confirmed to Troutman that the reorganization would result in shorter bus rides for the K-12 children when he asked if reorganization would affect transportation negatively.

In addition, Board President Wayne Barnett told the board about Johnson’s idea to make a school that just serves ninth graders at its own facility. Johnson called the concept a ninth-grade academy.

Board members tossed in suggestions about where the revamped schools could go.

Board member Thelma Newsome said she was leaning toward the idea of hosting the K-5 schools at the campuses of Frazier Primary School, West Primary School and McLaurin Elementary School. In Newsome’s scenario, Morgantown would serve sixth through eighth grades and the high school would stay like it is, serving ninth through 12th grades.

Barnett said another idea, which could incorporate a ninth-grade academy, would be to partition off parts of Robert Lewis Middle School in bad shape and use the remainder of the facility for a ninth-grade school.

Board member Tim Blalock said the district could also consider other properties besides the ones where current schools are.

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