LUMBERTON, MS (WDAM) - The Lumberton School Board voted Thursday to accept Lamar County School District's voluntary consolidation plan.
"The Lamar County proposal was unexpected, so when it arrived, there was some hesitancy initially," said Linda Smith, superintendent of Lumberton School District. "The board asked for Al Young, our board chair, and me to go and sit down and talk with with the leadership at Lamar County. Once we sat down and talked with them and were able to work through the proposal, we felt very comfortable with where they were trying to go, that their hearts were in a similar place to ours in trying to take care of students, families and this community."
Lamar County Superintendent Tess Smith said being able to have those discussions and decide locally what consolidation looks like is the benefit of voluntarily combining.
"We had a great meeting this week, going over some preliminary questions, concerns, that type of thing," Tess Smith said. "It seemed to be a very good meeting. I felt it was one of those meetings (where) you leave it and you go 'OK this is going to work.'"
Linda Smith said, "It's a shot in the arm of confidence for the faculty and staff that's here to know that they will move from one positive leadership team to a different positive leadership team. While some of the systemic and organizational set up may be different, they're going to find that teaching is teaching, and students are students."
Lamar County School District's plan also focused on keeping schools operating in Lumberton, which is something Linda Smith has pushed and hoped for since she found out her district needed to consolidate.
"We really wanted to keep K-12 schools in Lumberton because much of the community activity is surrounding the activities of the school and the students in the school," she said. "(It is) absolutely comforting just to know that we are like-minded because it's much easier to move forward in unity when you are like-minded. To know that our ultimate goal is the same - to protect and take of students, families and the community and our staff - was very heartwarming. It just gave us a sense of peace."
State lawmakers passed Senate Bill 2500 in 2016, and the governor signed it into law into summer 2016. The law requires Lumberton School District to consolidate with the Lamar County School District and the Poplarville School District by July 1, 2019.
Under Lamar County's plan, the districts would begin the 2018 school year combined, with logistical changes to meet that deadline starting sooner.
"It was thrust on all of us, but I believe that this solution is the best solution for Lumberton," Linda Smith said. "I believe that it will ultimately be the best solution for Lamar County as well."
Leaders from Lumberton, Lamar County and Poplarville school districts will meet Friday for their second consolidation commission meeting.