By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal
OKOLONA – The three-story Okolona Elementary School has been cited for numerous handicapped-accessibility violations and a December 2013 deadline has been set to fix them or face fines.
The Okolona School District P-16 Council was informed last week the Office of Civil Rights conducted an assessment of district, and while deficiencies were found at all schools, the Elementary School was cited for major violations.
“The three-story building has been cited since 2007 by the Office of Civil Rights for not being in compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements,” said State Conservator Mac Curlee. “They were here recently and I went with them and took every step they took. They have said these problems must be fixed, they have given us a deadline and we face being fined for every day we are not in compliance after that.”
While Okolona is coming out from under conservatorship, they do not have an elected school board or superintendent at this time. Curlee, as conservator, is still tasked with running the school district and the P-16 Council acts as the voice of the community on issues affecting Okolona schools.
Curlee urged P-16 members to discuss what the district might do to solve this problem with friends and relatives and bring those ideas and concerns to the next P-16 meeting.
“Facility concerns were one of the reasons the district was placed under state conservatorship and it is one of the shortcomings that still has not been addressed,” said Curlee. “Until the community remedies this problem we will not meet accreditation standards.”
Options discussed at the Sept. 18, meeting included a bond issue, moving middle school students to other facilities or ignoring the violations.
Several people said the district did not have this problem until the state took over Okolona schools. Curlee pointed out the Office of Civil Rights has granted extensions in the past, but has put its foot down on getting these violations fixed.
“What did or did not happen in the past does not change what we face today,” said Curlee. “I also don’t think putting this off on future school board members or a new superintendent is best for the district. The time is short and the district must act on this.”