Citizens voice their concerns about Nichols Elementary closing

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Jessica Bowman – email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Wednesday, citizens and parents of children who would normally attend Nichols Elementary stood in front of the school waving signs and making their voices heard. They said the decision to close the Biloxi school has put an unfair burden on families in that community.

"I'm having to try and find someone to take him to Gorenflo because that's not bus range were I stay. It's walking distance. But he's only five years old, so how can he walk there by himself?" Raquel Cook asked.

Cook moved across the street from Nichols Elementary one year ago. She thought living near the school would be ideal with her son starting kindergarten this year.

"It's in perfect condition. I don't understand why it had to get closed down," Cook said of Nichols.

Many of the people supporting Nichols have grown up in the area near the school, which they say is a fixture in the Biloxi community. During a school board meeting Tuesday evening, concerned citizens said the board discussed the building being used as surplus property.

"A surplus mind you. This is a top weight school. This community thrives off of this," Sharon Hanshaw said. "You know, when a school is dismissed out of a community, the community itself as a whole is over."

James Crowell, who headed up the rally, said $14 million will now be wasted.

"The Biloxi School District has chosen to close down their new school and have chosen to waste $14 million of taxpayers' money that went to building this facility," Crowell said. "And we're here on this first day of school to say we're not going to stand for it."

Crowell said the solution is easy.

"What we're saying is, close down the older school and keep the newer ones open," said Crowell.

Cook agrees the Biloxi School District should re-think locking the doors.

"I just hope and pray that they'll open it up so we can start going here now," said Cook.

A public meeting will be held next month to discuss what could be done with the three schools that have been closed. Biloxi Superintendent Dr. Paul Tisdale stated, "The faculty and students who formerly attended Nichols Elementary had a marvelous first day of school at Gorenflo Elementary."

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