Judge approves closing 3 schools in Chambers County School District

Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 5:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The Chambers County School System has struggled with the federal Desegregation Order since 1970. However, changes are being made to ensure the schools are no longer segregated between Black and White students.

The start of a new school year is just a month away, and Chambers County has gained court approval to close two elementary schools and one middle school to ensure the schools are no longer segregated.

The Chambers County Board of Education has had a desegregation order since 1970. Over the years, they have tried to gain unitary status, meaning you cannot have racially identifiable schools, and they all must be equal.

Chambers County Superintendent Casey Chamberly says they have been working to reach a settlement for over a year with the private plaintiffs, legal defense education and the department of justice. Finally, they agreed and sent it to the judge -- soon after, members of the private plaintiffs pulled out.

“The judge called a fairness hearing; we filed for an emergency injunction to go ahead and allow us to close the three schools that we had already closed. He heard from the public he heard comments both positive and negative.”

Chambers County is divided into two communities: Lafayette, majority Black, and Valley, majority White.

Father Brian Vines, who did not want to appear on camera, has his kids going to Lafayette from Lanett and believes it will be a struggle starting the transition.

“I don’t think the schools get along, and I don’t think it’s a good move at all.”

Grandmother Becky Dossman says she dislikes the school district changing and recently pulled her grandson out of public school and into a private school like many other parents are doing.

“He has always gone to five points middle school, and they shut that school down and are transferring him to eastside in Lafayette. I think it’s not going too well. "

District Judge W. Keith Watkins approved their ruling Tuesday to close the majority Black, John P. Powell Middle School in Lafayette.

He also approved the merger of majority White, Five Points Elementary School. That school will merge with the majority Black Eastside Elementary School to become a magnet school.

Then on the Valleyside, majority White Lafayette Lanier Elementary will close to merge with the majority White Fairfax Elementary.

“A lot of our community feels like they are losing, and I get it. We all understand that when we have to close communities’ schools that, that is something very difficult to do. The school district feels like this is what’s best for the kids. "

The judge stated in his order that the board needs to create a Desegregation Advisory Committee made up of parents and teachers from LaFayette and Valley. The board will address the remaining desegregation issues and the progress of the changes to the district. The committee will meet at least twice a year.

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