East Feliciana votes to swap school locations

The East Feliciana Parish School Board voted 6-5 Monday to swap locations for the parish’s high school and middle school in August.

The consolidated East Feliciana High School is in its third year of operation in Jackson, sharing the Jackson School Complex with Jackson Elementary School students.

The consolidated middle school is in the old Clinton High School facility, where high school students have continued to play football.

Board members Olivia Harris, Paul Kent, Michael Bradford, Debra Spurlock Haynes, Broderick Brooks and Richard Terrell voted to move the high school to Clinton and the middle school to Jackson.

Beth Dawson, Melvin Hollins, Ben Cupit, Mitch Harrell and Rufus Nesbitt voted against the moves. Rhonda Matthews was absent.

U.S. District Judge James Brady must approve the swap before the students are moved.

Nesbitt’s substitute motion to investigate the feasibility of reversing school consolidation failed, with only Dawson, Hollins, Harrell and Nesbitt voting for it.

Harrell, from Jackson, said one of the reasons for putting the high school in Jackson was to allow students easy access to the nearby state vocational-technical school, which is about to become a subsidiary of Baton Rouge Community College.

Brooks countered that only four students are taking vo-tech classes. “They can drive from here (Clinton), or take a bus,” Brooks said.

Hollins said complaints that high school students living near the St. Helena Parish line are bused across the parish to Jackson will become complaints about middle school students being bused the same distance.

Cupit said he brought up the idea of changing the locations because Clinton is centrally located in the parish. He said the high school and middle school both should be in the town.

Mary Sims, a Jackson resident, said the move “seems to be all about Clinton.”

“It’s about the children of East Feliciana Parish,” Terrell said. “It’s not about Clinton-Jackson.”

Asked about his preference, Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said he would like to put sixth-grade students at each of the three elementary schools and put students in grades 7-12 in the high school.

Moves to do away with the parish’s four-day school week and require graduation ceremonies to be held in the parish were stymied because of the agenda’s wording, but proponents said they will bring up the issues at the May 6 meeting.