High court: Mississippi Delta district can merge schools

Published 9:27 am Thursday, August 16, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court is clearing the way for a school district to merge schools, overturning a lower court order.

The court ruled Tuesday that Bolivar County Chancery Judge W.M Sanders erred in blocking the North Bolivar school district from merging two high schools and two middle schools.

Mound Bayou school supporters sued to stop its closure, saying the school board was biased against the town, whose former school district was merged with North Bolivar by the Legislature. They said the loss of the high school would harm the historic African-American municipality, calling efforts to close it “cruel, obsessive, and desperate” in their last court filing. They also noted 168 students were enrolled for high school in Mound Bayou and only 108 in Shelby.

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However, the state Supreme Court says merger opponents were required to appeal the school board’s January decision within 10 days in circuit court. The group didn’t sue until two months later and filed suit in chancery court.

Superintendent Maurice Smith tells The Bolivar Commercial that the district will start school Thursday with one high school in Shelby, merging Shelby’s former Broad Street High School and Mound Bayou’s former John F. Kennedy High School. The new school will be called North Side High.

“We had started making plans before the suit was filed,” he said. School leaders had said declining enrollment and needs for expensive repairs at multiple buildings prompted the need for the merger.

Smith said the combined football team will not be eligible this year to compete for a championship but other sports will be.
“It’s a little late to get uniforms for Friday’s first game but we’ll do the best we can,” he said.