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LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – At a Monday night meeting at the New Hope Middle School auditorium teachers, parents and students gathered for an announcement that had many upset about a gifted program dropped from the school schedule. Friday at the Lowndes County School District Central Office a full house met to voice their opinion and hear the latest about the history of the program.

Before a packed house the Lowndes County School District decided to keep the MERIT program after a passionate discussion amongst parents, teachers and school district leaders earlier in the week. On Monday school leaders decided they do away with the program for 7th and 8th graders and that news had the over 75 parents angry over the news.

According to Parent John Hall, “For one there was no transparency at all. It was 11th hour here we go, we’re removing 7th and 8th MERIT. The presentation that they have us had no data and no factual information.”

The MERIT program is designed to enable students to think outside the box. The classes promote creative thinking, team work and hands on learning.

Concerned Parent Scott Mills says, “We’re teaching these kids to be leaders. We’re teaching these kids to stand up and express themselves and that is how you benefit society. If the metrics for academic excellence is just math and reading then you’re limiting yourself before you even started.”

The Mississippi Department of Education requires that school districts offer an advanced program for grades two through six but not for grades seven and eight, which is about 196 students.

According to Dr Robin Ballard with the Lowndes County School District, “It was already an elective in the Handbook so we just went back and made it a true elective. The entire purpose was to give those students that explicit reading instruction and so by doing this then we do believe that it’s a win win.”

It’s a compromise that seems to have both sides in agreeance.

Hall says, “I’m very proud that the administration decided to make the changes and keep MERIT was a true elective, that’s options.”

Mills says, “I’m glad that they changed their stand on what they’re going to do for next year, however again we have no information on how they are going to administer this.”

And that’s the big concern moving forward. Parents are wanting more transparency when it comes to any changes that might affect their child’s education.

Another issue that is up for discussion but was tabled Friday was moving students to school uniforms.

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