East Feliciana could swap school sites

The East Feliciana Parish School Board could vote Monday on a proposal to switch locations for the middle and high schools next school year.

Proponents want to undo action taken three years ago and move the high school to Clinton and the middle school to Jackson.

Some board members discussed the idea at a Relocation Committee meeting Tuesday, but the committee sent the matter to the full board without a recommendation.

“I don’t know if this committee can make this decision. This is going to be a board decision any way you cut it,” Chairman Paul Kent said to open Tuesday’s discussion.

The board has scheduled a special 5 p.m. meeting Monday, with relocating the campuses one of the agenda items.

The agenda and accompanying materials show the board also may discuss, in executive session, alleged violations of court-ordered attendance zones set in a desegregation consent decree, as well as whether parish schools should return to a five-day week.

After twice turning down then-Superintendent Douglas Beauchamps’s consolidation recommendations, the School Board voted 7-3 on March 16, 2010, to merge the parish’s two middle schools and two high schools as a way to save money during a budget crisis that continues today.

The board chose the Jackson School Complex as the consolidated high school’s campus and put the new consolidated middle school at the former Clinton High School.

The consolidations allowed the district to close the former Clinton Middle School on La. 67 north of Clinton.

Jackson Elementary School remained in the two-story complex in Jackson.

Members J. Curtis Jelks, Willie M. Jackson, Oliver Wingfield, Mitch Harrell, Beth Dawson, Tony Rouchon and Matthew Peterson voted to consolidate the schools.

Richard Terrell, Michael Bradford and Leon Franklin voted against the move, while two members were absent.

Only two of the seven members supporting consolidation are on the board today, along with opponents Bradford and Terrell.

Opponents fought the schools’ mergers in federal court, but U.S. District Judge James Brady, who oversees a 1965 desegregation suit against the board, ruled the consolidations would not interfere with school desegregation efforts.

During the two seasons since the mergers, the parish high school has played its football games at Clinton, which has better stadium and track facilities than Jackson.

District Maintenance Supervisor James C. Bell Jr. estimated the board would have to spend $298,000 to upgrade the Jackson athletic facilities to equal those in Clinton.

“I would like to see the high school back in Clinton,” board member Broderick Brooks said during Tuesday’s discussion.

Brooks said he has heard parents’ complaints about high-school students “picking on” Jackson Elementary students.

Member Olivia Harris said the high school and Jackson Elementary never should have been placed in the same building.