LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Some students that attend Baxterville School in south Lamar County could soon transition to Purvis.
During a Monday night Lamar County School Board meeting, Superintendent Tess Smith mentioned turning Baxterville into a focused elementary school, being Pre-Kindergarten to fifth grade, and transitioning sixth through eighth graders to Purvis.
"This way the students could get their earlier," Smith said. "At an age where it's a lot easier to make friends and join in clubs and organizations and become acclimated, so by the time they do hit high school they are set."
One of the pro-choices that Smith referenced was this change could decrease the dropout rate at Purvis High School of former Baxterville students.
"When you look at a Kindergarten class that starts with about 21 students, and when they actually go all the way through and cross the stage, there is only about nine of them that complete, and that is an average," Smith said.
The Baxterville School, which Smith refers to as a "hidden gem" has roughly 280 students.
If the proposal is approved by the school board, roughly 80 to 85 students would make the transition.
"We would transition them to Purvis Middle School, and that would cause some growth there at the middle school, so the plan is to offset that by a building project here on the Purvis Middle-High School campus," Smith said. "That would see those students through as well as any other growth that we are dealing with in the Purvis area."
Smith said there is absolutely no intention to lay anyone off or to have any loss of jobs.
"I want to limit the number of staff changes to the smallest amount possible," Smith said.
One option she listed was to attempt to get those faculty members to the Purvis area so they can continue to work with those students they are familiar with.
"This is not a new discussion, this discussion has been ongoing and debated for many years, and there was even a time when it was discussed closing the school," Smith said. "That is not an option."
Nothing has been discussed recently or mentioned to the board about closing the school, only a new plan for students.
"Our goal is for every student to graduate and we are seeing right now the plan that we have in place for that transition is just not working," Smith said. "When 50 percent of the students are not staying in school and not receiving that diploma it's an issue."
As of now, this is only a plan to be presented to the board for approval. Smith added that a building plan has to be created as well as other aspects put into place, which would roughly take two years before the first student would ever make the transition to Purvis.
"This process will not save money, in fact it will probably cost the district money, but again, if that's what is best for students, that's what we need to do," said Smith.
Smith said the Pre K-5 level at Baxterville would have new technology added as well as updated to give the school a new identity.
With top administrators on board with the project, not everyone in the community is open to the new idea. Even with the beginning talk of change, some parents want the issue stopped.
One parent who asked for her name not to be published said they are actively working on petitions to stop this process, and plan to have a meeting Wednesday night at 6 p.m. to address concerns of this proposed change.
Smith will present the plan to the school board Oct. 19 during its regularly scheduled meeting.