WAYNE COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The Wayne County School District has announced its two city schools will transition to Pre-K through K-8 beginning in the fall.
Superintendent Bobby Jones said Waynesboro Elementary School, currently for students in Kindergarten to fourth grade, and Waynesboro Middle School, for those in fifth to eighth grade, will both transition. There will now be five K-8 schools in the county.
"We're going to take the same students, the same faculty and we are just going to divide them up," Jones said.
Jones said the "Pre-K" is something new they will add this year, opening up classes for children in the district before they can officially begin kindergarten.
Jones said he wants to build a better relationship with students, teachers and staff, and giving them a longer time together during their educational career can help that. Jones had experience as a principal for a K-8 school and said he's seen its success.
"I'm trying to make it better, I'm trying to improve test scores, improve relationships with students," Jones said. "I'm trying to make it so students want to go to school, so they feel like they have someone they can talk to."
Jones said many students don't have someone to turn to outside of school, so giving them that relationship is important.
"You know, a lot of kids don't have a relationship at home or where they can talk to the parents, someone who they can lean on. We are going to try to do that, build a better relationship with the kids," Jones said.
Students who live in city limits will go to Waynesboro Middle School, while those in the county will go to the current elementary school. Jones said he is asking teachers and staff for input in a new name, mascot and colors to replace for the elementary school.
Jones said the district went through data from the schools to make sure the students, teachers and staff were being "equally split" to maintain a balanced district. "It practically fell into place," Jones said. He said the minority, genders, grades and needs were evenly divided.
Jones said he has received some negative feedback from parents, but when he has explained why he feels this transition is important, he said he changed the concerned parents' minds.
"Once I talked to the people and told them we want to build a rapport and compare them to other schools," Jones said. "Each caller hung up with a different opinion than when they called."
Teachers and staff will also be divided, but Jones has said the feedback from his employees has been positive. Jones said there will not be an impact on the budget. He said the only issue he has come across at this time is moving some equipment, especially playground equipment, between locations.
Jones said the district is also working to make a county-wide dismissal time of 2:45 p.m.