MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - "I'm not here to argue with you," said the Moss Point School Board's attorney to a crowd of irate parents Tuesday night. "I'm telling you what Judge Suleman has ordered, and we are required to abide by it."
The Moss Point School District will go ahead with restructuring its elementary schools, but it will wait until the fall of 2010. The School Board made the decision to defer realignment Tuesday, with all but one vote in favor. The only board member not to vote for realignment, Fred Presley, abstained.
The restructuring would divide the schools up by grade, with the head start program and kindergarten students attending West Elementary, 1st and 2nd grades would go to Kreole Academy, 3rd and 4th graders would attend East Park and 5th and 6th grades would attend Escatawpa Elementary.
Orange Lake Elementary and Charlotte Hyatte Elementary would close.
The proposed realignment has been approved by federal court, and board members told parents that means it has to happen. Some parents approve of the changes, while others remain strongly opposed.
Many parents who attended Tuesday night's meeting erupted with anger when realignment came up for the Board's discussion.
"This is basically a situation where everybody isn't going to be happy without a doubt," said Board President Charles Wesley.
School District officials said the decision to restructure Moss Point's elementary schools is meant to lower operation costs while improving curriculum. They said this type of consolidation will help Moss Point compete with the rest of the state.
"We will have all the grades, the same grade level teachers in the same building. There's a lot of collaboration that can take place, and we've just seen that that tends to work throughout the state, looking at the models throughout the state," Superintendent Col. Kim Staley said. "So we're just excited about the opportunity to try something new and hopefully improve test scores, as well as ease the tax burden on our citizens."
Board members said the long-term benefits of restructuring are worth the inconvenience it might cause to parents who will have to drive their children further to get to school.
"We can either start now and do it, and be ahead of the game like the other districts along the coast with the same restructuring, or we'll be behind again," said Wesley.
But the parents who are opposed think they plan is less about students and more about business.
"I think that they are making a decision that is solely based on finances and a business decision and I don't think they're taking the children's education into play," said Candice Conn.
The district is planning to spend the next year preparing students and parents for the transition.
"These are emotional times, any time you're dealing with closing schools and those types of things. So you expect tempers to flair and fear to set in, and I understand all of that." Staley said. "But the good news is, we'll get to restructure next year."