Committee: Build two new schools

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 5, 2000

Adams County needs two new upper elementary schools, says a committee studying the Natchez-Adams School District’s facilities. The district’s K-6 Advisory Committee released its Educational Facility Plan last week. In that plan, the group recommended added the two fourth- through sixth-grade schools — one in northern Adams County and one in the southern part of the county.

In addition, the committee recommends converting West Primary, Frazier Primary and Morgantown Elementary into kindergarten through third-grade schools and utilizing Natchez Middle School and McLaurin Elementary for seventh- and eighth-grade students.

This would reduce student enrollment at all the mentioned schools, while preventing younger students from being negatively impacted by older students and allowing district staff to focus on the specific age they teach.

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&uot;I think it’s a good plan,&uot;&160;said Kenneth Taylor, president of the Natchez-Adams County School Board and committee facilitator. &uot;We’re overcrowded in our elementary (schools), and we need more space. … We could certainly use the two schools.&uot;

The plan does not address how construction of the two schools would be funded.

The committee spent eight months researching options for easing overcrowding in the elementary schools. Their recommendation now goes before the school board for consideration.

However, because of a 1989 federal desegregation order, the district must seek U.S. Justice Department approval before making any facility changes or expansions.

Ironically, the committee recommended against the reopening of Braden as an elementary school — the controversial school board plan which sparked the committee’s creation earlier this year.

&uot;At that time the only thing that the board could offer was Braden,&uot; Taylor said. &uot;That’s the only school that it had.&uot;

Taylor said the committee members were opposed to reopening Braden because the school would only hold less than 400 students under that plan.

The committee report also states that it would cost too much to convert Braden, which is now the central administration office, into a school and to relocate the administrative staff to another site.

Now that the committee has finalized its plan, Taylor said the next step will be for members of the school board to discuss it. &uot;The board has to study this and decide what’s its opinion on this proposal,&uot;&160;he said.

It does not matter whether the district pursues reopening Braden or some form of the committee’s recommendation, Taylor said. &uot;You still got to get permission for the court to change the alignment from what it is,&uot; he said.

School board member Terry Estes said he needs more time to study the committee’s recommendation but he thought it had some good points.

&uot;It’s not a bad suggestion,&uot; Estes said. &uot;It reflected what we’re going (towards), which is smaller schools.&uot;

This is especially important at the elementary level, which Estes described as the most important time in a child’s education.

If you do not have a student on track by sixth-grade, &uot;normally you’ve lost them,&uot; Estes said.

Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis said he also thinks the recommendation had some good points. &uot;I like the new schools (and) I like the K-3 configuration as opposed to K-1,&uot; Davis said.

Under that arrangement, students benefit from spending more time in one school before they have to transfer to another, Davis said.

But Davis said one concern he had about the recommendation is that McLaurin Elementary and the Natchez Middle School are both too large in size to house only seventh- and eighth-graders.

One way of solving this may be to put ninth-graders at one of those schools to reduce school size at Natchez High School, Davis said.