Tupelo board OKs intermediate schools zoning changes
By Monique Harrison
The Tupelo Public Schools Board voted Tuesday to relocate an estimated 40 students next fall in an attempt to equalize racial demographics at King and Milam intermediate schools.
Currently, about 41 percent of Milam students are minorities, while King has a student body that is about 30 percent minority.
After the zoning changes are put into place next fall, both schools are expected to be within two or three percentage points of the district’s target minority percentage of 35 percent.
State Highway 6 serves as the boundary line for intermediate students, with everyone residing north of the highway attending King and everyone south attending Milam.
The exception to that boundary has been students who live in what the Mississippi Department of Education refers to as a “walk zone.” Students within about a half-mile radius of Milam, which is located just north of Highway 6, have been attending the West Jefferson Street school because they live nearby.
However, the state allows districts to extend that walk zone to students who live within a one-mile radius of the school.
“We decided to take advantage of that walk zone,” said Lynn Bryan, who heads up the district’s support services. “It will be more economical because we won’t have to run a bus through there to take the kids to Milam, and it will help solve our (racial imbalance) problem.”
Within the walk zone, Milam’s current western boundary is Park Street. Next year, that line will be moved to include Rankin Boulevard. The boundary to the east will not change. To the north, the line will be moved from the current Jackson Street boundary northward, to include Highland Circle.
In a second rezoning move, students in the South Veterans Boulevard area will be moved from Milam to King, located at 1402 N. Green St.
The affected area runs along South Veterans, as far north as Royal Maid Drive. Hadley Street, Red Oak Road, South Canal, Orchard Street, Richard Street, Marcy Circle, Herring Circle and Mercer Street are also affected.
The action was the final step in a three-tier plan approved by the board earlier this month and designed to restore racial balance to the city’s two intermediate schools, which serve students in grades five and six.
Board members Polly Bailey, Dr. Charles Robertson and Charlotte McElroy approved the change. The Rev. George Pulliam abstained, while Billy Crews did not attend.
The first step in the three-part plan was a crackdown on students attending class out of their zone. After efforts to locate students in violation of district policy, officials moved to repeal previously granted transfers. The waivers would only be repealed if the move would improve racial balance.
Superintendent Mike Vinson said parents with hardship cases could request a waiver. Special consideration will be given to students who are currently in fifth grade and do not want to make the switch.