Crenshaw school closing is touchy subject

Published 4:47 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Myra Bean

Staff Column

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Thursday, the North Panola School Board held a work session to hear more information about the feasibility of closing Crenshaw Elementary. There were some community members present in the tiny conference room at the district office.

In February, the Board heard from the Bailey Group about the cost of facility work for all of the schools and buildings in the district. They presented three options which all included closing Crenshaw.

That was a mistake. This group came to the meeting led by one of the board members, but they did not have what they needed to make their argument. Sentimentality will not keep Crenshaw open.

They need to come to the board with hard numbers and a fiscally sound management program to keep that school open. We are going through that at The Panolian. Sentimentality helps soften the blow of what the reality of the action the money situation demands.

I can see where this group is coming from. I would be there, too, if my kindergarten age child will have to take a 25 minute or longer bus ride to school, but it happens every day across the country.

Panola is a big, wide county. When buses have to stop on the route, it takes time. Even the shortest routes take time. This whole situation can be laid at the foot of the four counties which serve Crenshaw. Yes, Crenshaw is divided among Panola, Tate, Quitman and Tunica.

Way back when our ancestors thought they were so smart, there are towns on the borders that are served by multiple counties. Therefore, they are not served at all, in my opinion.

One of these counties should have fought hard to claim that whole town like Sarah, Enid and Sledge. It is ridiculous.

However, Panola was the only county to step up and put an elementary school there, but parents are not cooperating. Some send their kids out of district to some of the other counties. All of that is another soapbox issue.

We heard from the district staff the hard numbers of saving $501,000 with the closing of Crenshaw. With the other buildings needing walls, roofs and other upgrades, that money is long spent. The one issue that not many people could dispute was the 90 percent turnover per year in staff.

There are only six certified teachers, one for each grade except fourth and fifth grades, which have three teachers who service them. No one wants to work there. No one is building a legacy.

For example, if you went to a South Panola football game and asked who all had the late Mrs. Doris Abson, a ball would hit just about every other person. They will not have that at Crenshaw. No one is staying beyond a year. Those that hired staff sold them the first year.

You can make any kind of argument you want on money and sentimentality, but without teachers, all bets are off.

I do not know if the board will actually vote on the options tonight at the regular board meeting at 6 p.m. in the North Panola High School library.

If they are going to make those transitions to start the next school year, they will need to get started as soon as possible. One other thing I did not see but a few of were the parents of school-age students at the meeting. How do current and future Crenshaw parents feel about this?