Davis seeks to ease overcrowding

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 30, 1999

Discipline problems and overcrowded schools – often the two go hand-in-hand. Natchez-Adams Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis wants to reduce both of these by opening Braden School as a fifth elementary school.

&uot;I really think a lot of the violence and the disciplinary actions we are having to take has to do with overcrowded conditions,&uot; Davis said.

But it isn’t as simple as just reopening the old school.

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In 1988, a federal case under Judge William Barbour ordered Natchez to close several schools and only operate the schools currently open.

The court closed Thompson, Martin, Morgantown and McLaurin junior high schools and established one high school and one middle school for the entire county. West and Frazier became primary schools and Morgantown and McLaurin became upper elementary schools.

The district cannot make any changes to this setup, even to reduce overcrowding. &uot;The district is not allowed to make any changes in the schools without the permission of the federal court,&uot; Davis said.

A solution may hinge on the action of a group of local residents who filed the lawsuit in 1988.

If they don’t support the change, it could take an expensive, time-consuming lawsuit to make the change, Davis said.

&uot;Those four people hold the key,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;If these plaintiffs wanted to help the process along, they could do it.&uot;

State Rep. Phillip West and his wife Carolyn were two of the plaintiffs.

Phillip West said he needs up-to-date details on the plan, but he is willing to discuss the idea.

&uot;I’m always open for discussions on change, if change would possibly contribute to a better situation,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;I’m concerned about education. I’m concerned about bettering education.&uot;

The district already has a plan in place and money set aside to reduce crowding.

Braden, Frazier, West, McLaurin and Morgantown schools would all become K-6 elementary schools.

The plan will keep the schools evenly mixed racially and could reduce Morgantown’s enrollment from 1,100 to 800 and McLaurin’s from around 900 to 700.

Davis said he thinks the plan will address community concerns.

&uot;Every place I go in town, I’ve had folks say, ‘Why don’t you and the school board open up some more schools so we can deal with this overcrowding?’&uot; Davis said.

If schools were less crowded, teacher morale might improve, and it would be easier to target students with learning or behavior problems, he added. &uot;We’d probably have the same needs, but it wouldn’t be so compact,&uot; Davis said.

Plaintiffs George and Deborah Harden and Lonnie and Carolyn Nichols could not be reached for comment.