Group makes new allegation against Biloxi School District

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A group fighting to reopen Nichols Elementary School has made a new allegation against the Biloxi School District. The "Save Our Schools Coalition" claims nearby Gorenflo Elementary School is overcrowded. This week, the Coalition said it presented the Biloxi School Board with a petition to reopen Nichols.

It's been two years now since Nichols Elementary closed and students were moved to Gorenflo Elementary. James Crowell, co-chairman of the Save Our Schools Coalition, claims Gorenflo is overcrowded.

"The children are not being able to be fed within a time frame that they have," said Crowell. "They are using irregular classrooms in terms of using closets or storage spaces to house the kids, because there are no classroom space. Teachers are doubling up in classes."

When asked how he learned about the alleged overcrowding problem, Crowell replied, "Well, I had some grandparents who went to the Grandparents Day with their children and I was told that it was very hectic there in the cafeteria. And when they went to sit down to eat with their grandchild, they had maybe one or two minutes to eat their food."

Biloxi school leaders refute those allegations.

"The lunch lines are running efficiently. I know on Grandparents Day, throughout every elementary school, we invited grandparents, parents in, just a variety of relatives and that did cause us to be backed up on that particular day," said Dr. Janice Wilson, Biloxi Schools Elementary Curriculum Director.

"As of today, we have seen growth at Gorenflo. But our student-teacher ratio is the lowest in the district at 19 to one," Wilson added. "Every regular classroom teacher has a classroom."

Crowell also said the children don't have enough lockers for their books and belongings. However, school leaders said the school does not have lockers, and they said there are enough cubbies for every child.

Coalition members said they presented the Biloxi School Board a petition, containing more than 1,500 names of people who support the push to reopen Nichols.

"We had parents in the community that signed it. We had alumni from various communities outside of Biloxi who had an interest in this school," said Crowell.

Biloxi's superintendent said he hasn't seen the petitions Crowell mentioned.

"He did not present the petition to us. He said he had the names and that's all we know about it," said McMillan.

Coalition leaders said they won't give up until they see the doors at Nichols open to school children once again.

Members of the Save Our Schools Coalition and others are asking a judge to allow them to include the overcrowding allegations into a lawsuit filed last year. That lawsuit seeks to reopen Nichols.

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