Residency situation affects area schools

Published 12:25 am Wednesday, October 1, 2008

VIDALIA — Students who started the school year in Concordia Parish may have to finish it elsewhere, but the question remains: where?

The parish school district is under a desegregation order from the U.S. Justice Department, and part of that order includes making sure out-of-district students are not enrolled in school districts where they cannot prove residency.

Vidalia Upper Elementary Principal Darla Johnston said 12 students have either left or been told to leave that school since the residency requirements have gone into effect.

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“When we started school, we had an enrollment of 456, so that 12 doesn’t make a big dent in it,” Johnston said.

No matter how large or small a dent the residency requirements makes in the Concordia Parish student population, however, those students have to go somewhere.

Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Anthony Morris said the district has seen approximately 10 students enroll since the crackdown began, but because “society is so mobile, I am not sure how closely that is tied to what is going on in Concordia Parish.”

Even if all of students who have been flagged for questionable residency — upwards of 65 have been notified that they are being or will be investigated — have to enroll in the Natchez-Adams public schools, Morris said he does not have a great concern about being able to accommodate them.

“As long as they are distributed throughout the grades, I don’t see a problem,” he said.

For parents who don’t want to take the public school route, their other option is the local private schools.

“I think people are still making decisions, but we have a few students who will be starting this week,” Trinity Episcopal Head of School Delecia Carey said.

Trinity has had a number of inquiries, usually from entire families rather than a single student, Carey said.

So far, Adams County Christian School has only had one student added in the lower grades, but has received calls and questions about enrollment every day, Headmaster Buddy Wade said.

“With the number of calls, I figure we will pick up a few more,” he said. “We’re just playing it day by day.”

At Cathedral School, Principal Pat Sanguinetti said they have gotten more phone calls than applications, but that the number of students Cathedral will take is limited because they want to keep their classes to a certain size.

“In the middle school, it’s kind of full,” he said.

The school’s commitment to keep classes from overcrowding was something the other private school heads listed as reasons they might not be able to absorb more students.

“We can take another 50 students or so if they fell in the right grades with the teachers they have now,” Wade said. “We have some grades that are at capacity, but in the junior high or high school we can still take a few.”

But Carey said, no matter where the students end up, she feels for them.

“My heart goes out to these families,” she said. “They have gone out and bought school supplies, started school and at just about the moment where they have settled in, they have to move (schools).”