Tupelo’s restructured schools open Friday

TUPELO – Years of planning, months of construction and weeks of moving will culminate Friday for Tupelo elementary schools.
Students will arrive for the first day of school at reconfigured elementary schools. Many returning students will be at new schools or getting to know new teachers and principals.
Instead of seven schools with kindergarten through second-grade classes, and three schools with fourth to sixth grades, the district is now configured with five K-2 schools, four 3-5 schools and one sixth-grade school.
“It’s all coming together,” said Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell. “Everybody has such a positive attitude. The principals have worked hard to have a smooth transition for students.”
Carver School’s transformation from upper elementary to lower elementary is effectively complete.
“We are very proud of the work we’ve accomplished so far to make Carver a K-2 school,” said Principal Brenda Robinson, who with her staff moved to Carver from Thomas Street School. “We put our heart and soul in it this summer.”
At Milam, students and parents seem excited about the sixth-grade school, said Principal Travis Beard.
“I haven’t gotten a single negative comment,” Beard said.
The option for two electives, especially band, has been particularly well-received.
“Almost half of our enrollment has signed up for band,” Beard said. “A hundred kids signed up for Spanish.”
The district has three main goals for the elementary reorganization:
n More stable, consistent ethnic and socio-economic demographics at the elementary schools so the district will not have to redraw attendance zones to maintain similar populations at each school.
n Clean feeder schools so children living in the same zone will attend the same lower and upper elementary schools, keeping students together with their peers as they change schools.
n Expanding the 15-1 student-teacher ration to second and third grades.
The reorganization effort goes back years.
After a community forum to discuss elementary reorganization, the school district pulled together a committee of parents and community members to address the issue and consulted with a North Carolina State University statistician with experience in setting stable school attendance zones.
Instead of going street by street, the district used a computer model setting up planning units made of neighborhoods.
The Board of Trustees voted final approval on the redistricting plan in October 2007. Since then, the district has completed a $5.9 million construction project that added 42 classrooms. Summer renovation projects at Lawhon and Carver are now substantially complete, too.

Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal