CHOCTAW COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) — Choctaw County schools get most of what they want from a federal judge but the same ruling also leaves some questions unanswered.
District Superintendent Glenn Beard and other administrators were in meetings Thursday morning trying to answer those questions and make staffing reductions in the wake of a ruling that consolidates all the county’s seventh through 12th graders at Ackerman High School while leaving grades K through 8 at schools in Ackerman, Weir and French Camp.
The consolidated middle and high schools in Ackerman will be known as Choctaw County High.
Judge Glenn Davidson’s ruling closely followed the school district’s consolidation plan other than moving seventh- and eighth-graders from French Camp to Ackerman. Davidson said moving the French Camp students would further degregation efforts and not create major transportation issues on minority students.
The U.S. Justice Department had proposed consolidating grades 9-12 at Ackerman while creating a middle school and elementary school at Weir and a Pre-K through second grade at French Camp.
Davidson’s ruling came Wednesday night following an all-day hearing in federal court April 2.
The district said it needed to consolidate to save as much as $1.2 million a year to through staff reductions and lower operational costs remain financially solvent. The district has had to almost drain its reserves in the last two years because an expected tax payment — ranging from $1.2 million to $1.4 million — from the new Choctaw County Electric Generating plant has not materialized the last two years as promised.
Davidson’s ruling raises a variety of questions about the future of French Camp schools. French Camp Elementary currently is a K-8 school that operates under a state law that creates a partnership among the Choctaw, Montgomery and Attala County school districts. Anywhere from 35 to 50 students from Montgomery and Attala counties go to French Camp.
The three districts must figure out the arrangement in the wake of the federal ruling. If the other two counties pull out and those students go to their home counties, it would cost Choctaw County as much as $300,000 in state revenue.
French Camp Academy, a private school that serves grades 9-12, also might consider expanding to offer the seventh and eighth grades, which also could drain students.