NASD officials: No ‘formal’ talks of school closures

Published 4:00 am Friday, April 22, 2022

NATCHEZ —Natchez-Adams School District officials say they have not “formally talked” about closing any campuses at the end of the school year.

Rumors about possible campus closings circulated on social media recently, and district officials are preparing to open a new middle school on the Natchez High campus.

Superintendent Fred Butcher declined to comment on any plans for the schools, while board member Phillip West said the board hasn’t formally discussed plans.

Email newsletter signup

“We have not formally talked about closing any of the schools, but we also recognize that it’s going to be a domino effect that once the new high school is built the old high school will be turned into a middle school. We have officially discussed it and have not made any decision on that at this particular time,” West said.

When discussing plans for the new high school and renovating the old high school in 2017, the construction plan included a potential closing of Joseph L. Frazier Elementary School and Robert Lewis Magnet School.

This plan faced criticism from some members of the Natchez Board of Aldermen at the time.

Alderman Billie Joe Frazier expressed his concern that two more abandoned buildings in North Natchez would increase crime in the area and former Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis called the schools the “cornerstone of the community” and said it would be better to renovate them. School board members at the time argued placing schools close together creates efficiencies in transportation, which can save money, but also in synergies in the classroom by sharing staff. The price tag of renovating them was also a concern.

Former school board member Cynthia Smith said when she retired as an administrator in 2004, security, safety and structural issues at Robert Lewis were already concerns.

While there hasn’t been any recent discussion of closing the schools during board meetings, the school board has talked about using COVID-19 relief money to do an estimated $13 million worth of updates at other schools, including replacing the HVAC units at Morgantown Middle School, McLaurin Elementary School and possibly Susie B. West Elementary School.

Last week, officials said the district is slated to receive $22 million from the ESSER III, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, which hasn’t been touched. The school district must follow spending requirements set by the state to receive reimbursement from ESSER grants.