Committee: Two new schools a long-term solution to crowding

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2000

Building two new schools as opposed to reopening an existing one may be a long-term solution to school crowding in Natchez, say members of a committee which studied the issue.

&uot;(We) didn’t think one (school) would adequately solve the problem,&uot; said committee member Henry Walker.

The Natchez-Adams School District formed the K-6 Advisory Committee to receive community input after the district suggested reopening Braden School on Homochitto Street as an elementary school.

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After studying the issue, the committee members decided the Braden proposal was not enough and finalized an alternate plan, which was released by the school district this week.

Instead of reopening Braden, the committee proposed that the district build two fourth- to sixth-grade schools – one in the north part of the county and one in the south.

The committee also suggested the district convert Frazier Primary, West Primary and Morgantown Elementary to kindergarten to third-grade schools and use McLaurin Elementary and Natchez Middle for seventh- and eighth-graders.

Committee member Michael Winn said he is waiting to hear community reaction to the proposal, which so far he think has been positive. &uot;I think the community at large is going to be excited about it,&uot; he said.

Committee members supported the proposal because it is a long-term solution to the problem, Walker said.

The suggestion to reopen Braden School was controversial because the Natchez-Adams School District is under a federal desegregation order and must approve any changes of this type with the U.S. Justice Department.

Six Natchez residents filed the lawsuit, which resulted in several schools being closed and the present configuration of students in the Natchez-Adams School District.

Plaintiffs George Harden said he is waiting for school district officials to take any proposed changes before a judge. &uot;They need to go to court,&uot; he said. &uot;When they get ready to go to court, I will go to court as a plaintiff.&uot;

State Rep. Phillip West, also a plaintiff, said he viewed some aspects of the committee’s proposal as positive.

&uot;There has been some thought given to long-term improvement of the school district,&uot; West said. &uot;I don’t see any particular thing I would be totally opposed to.&uot;

West agreed with the committee that reopening Braden School would not solve enough of the problem to &uot;justify the action.&uot;

But West said he favors building a new high school over new elementary schools.

&uot;Something new and more modern would have a positive impact on the school district,&uot; West said.

&uot;I just think it should be a high school.&uot;

Because the K-6 Advisory Committee’s objective was to create proposal to reduce school crowding, the members did not include in their proposal how the new schools would be funded or focus on the racial composition of the schools, Walker said.

The committee members discussed those matters but did not think they could make those suggestions.

&uot;We’re not the ones who are going to draw those lines,&uot; Walker said. &uot;We’re not going to determine who goes where.

Those issues will have to be finalized by the U.S. Justice Department or by the school board, Walker said.

The committee’s objective was only to develop a plan,&uot; said Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis, who added that a new elementary school costs around $5 to $6 million to build.