Commission Takes Close Look at Consolidation

By: Ashley Conroy Email
By: Ashley Conroy Email

The debate about school consolidation in Mississippi continues. Parents and others had the chance this week to voice their concerns to state leaders in Jackson.

"In many many cases, particularly in small rural communities, the school is really what they identify with," said Nancy Loom of Parents Campaign.

The other concern is jobs.

"When those schools close, it causes an increase to the unemployment," said Patsy L. Jackson, a parent of a student at North Panola School District. "People become impoverished because they have no jobs anymore."

State superintendent, Dr. Tom Burnham, says this isn't the case, that schools would not have to shut their doors.

"You're not talking about closing schools," Burnham said. "You're not talking about taking away the community identity of schools. You're simply talking about consolidating administrative functions."

North Panola, like Hazlehurst, has already been taken over by the state for being consistently ranked as low-performing. But that isn't enough to convince parents like Jackson that consolidation is the answer.

"Because a school has impoverished people living in the district does not make the education any less," Jackson said.

The Mississippi Education Commission says, before it would take place, a district's population would have to be less than 2,000, the district would have to be low-performing, and it would examine the overall administration cost per-student.

Many schools in Mississippi have trailed behind in high academic achievement. Burnham says leaders are trying to determine why.

"That's what this commission is working on, at this point in time, to say 'is consolidation a feasible alternative for education in Mississippi?'" said Burnham.

Eighteen schools are in consideration for consolidation. The education commission will meet again May 10 to discuss the public's input.

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