Pascagoula parents at odds over middle school concept

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Things could be changing soon for middle school students and parents in Pascagoula, and some of them aren't happy about it.

The Pascagoula School District is considering combining Colmer and Trent Lott Middle Schools. Colmer would house the seventh and eighth graders and Trent Lott would become a 6th grade academy.

It's part of a five year strategic plan that Pascagoula Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich said the public created itself two years ago. He said the reconfiguration would help lower training costs for middle school staff and benefit the students by unifying resources and talents within the district. He said it would also help make room in the district for a Pre-K program in the future.

However, some parents don't want to make the move.

"I think its bogus," said Art Medina, who has a child at Trent Lott Middle School. "They shouldn't divide them up. The reason certain grades are together is to get a certain maturity level, not divide them off somewhere."

Another parent who refused to go on camera said she's in favor of the sixth grade academy.  She believes sixth graders are in a different stage of life than their older schoolmates, and therefore would benefit greatly from going to a separate school.

Sharon Pepper has five school-age children, and she drives each of them every day.  Her main complaint is the added headache of having to drive to an extra school.

"I was very disappointed," she said.  "I already have three schools to go to. Twice a day."

She's not alone in that complaint.

"I live in this part of town for this school district," Medina said.  "I don't want my kid to go all the way across town to go to school."

According to Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich, Colmer and Trent Lott are only two miles apart. He said the added travel time pales in comparison to the benefits combining the schools could have for students.

"We have tremendously talented teachers and bright students, but we must set them up for success by better vertically and horizontally aligning our curriculum," he said in a letter to parents. "And this reconfiguration provides us that opportunity."

Rodolfich said 85 percent of parents who talked to him about the realignment supported the switch.

"Some schools are missing out on what other schools have, on athletics, education, sponsorships, and they should all share because we are one school, one district," said Wendy Fagan, who has one child at Colmer.

However, many of those who oppose it, oppose it wholeheartedly.

"I think we should leave the kids where they are," said Medina.

The Pascagoula School Board is set to vote on the concept at their April 14 meeting.  Fagan said she hopes the school board will be careful in making their decision.

"Just think about it," said Fagan.  "Weigh the pros and cons with it. And ask your child how they feel about it.  Because they are the ones that actually have to be in the school."

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