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Anniston school board proposes district lines for Tenth Street closure

Proposal still needs nod from federal judge

Kids who live north of 10th Street and west of Quintard Avenue will likely attend Randolph Park Elementary after the closure of Tenth Street Elementary School, while children in most of the rest of the city will attend Golden Springs Elementary.

That, at least, is the plan according to documents Anniston’s school system filed in federal court earlier this month, part of the school system’s request for permission to close the school.

“The district continues to experience financial difficulties,” lawyers for the school district wrote in a court brief that appeared in electronic court records on Friday. “The closing of Tenth Street will provide for more efficient use of resources and provide educational benefits for the students.”

Anniston’s school board voted earlier this year to close the school, one of three elementary schools operated by the city. At the heart of that decision is the city’s declining population. The school system had 2,292 students in the 2010-2011 school year compared to 1,738 students during the school year that ended last month, according to the school system’s court brief.

Tenth Street has the lowest enrollment of the city’s three elementary schools, with 241 students, and is in the city’s oldest school building, erected in 1954.

Closing a school in Anniston isn’t a simple matter. The city is still under federal court supervision in Lee v. Macon, the lawsuit that led to desegregation of Alabama schools in the 1960s and 1970s.

Court monitoring means the school system has to get a judge’s permission before opening or closing a school, so courts can monitor the racial makeup of the schools. In all three of Anniston’s elementary schools, roughly nine out of every 10 students are black.

In their petition to the court, school leaders proposed a new school district boundary that would follow West 10th Street eastward to Quintard Avenue, then follow Quintard north to roughly the location of Blue Mountain Road, then turn due east.

That line would put most of eastern and southern Anniston in the Golden Springs district, with much of western Anniston, Blue Mountain and McClellan in the Randolph Park district. 

After the split, the court filing shows, Golden Springs would have a student body that is 88 percent Black, while Randolph Park would be 94 percent Black.

Those numbers also show the two schools together educating a total of 669 students next year. That seems to predict that the school system’s elementary enrollment will decline by 80 students in the coming year. It’s unclear why that number is lower, though the school system’s overall enrollment has been declining for years.

In a text message, school board president Robert Houston said Superintendent Ray Hill would be the proper person to speak to those numbers. Attempts to reach Hill and Burgin Kent, the school system’s lawyer, were not successful Wednesday.

The plan is likely to go through untouched. Earnestine Sapp, the lawyer who has represented the plaintiffs in the desegregation case for decades, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that she doesn’t expect to oppose the plan.

“Unfortunately, the school system has had a loss of students,” Sapp said. “They had to do something. Perhaps this will give them an opportunity to improve their efforts to enhance the school experience.”

Due to the pandemic, the school system sought out parent input this year largely through online forums and surveys. In interviews with The Star, parents have mostly expressed concern about what school their child will be zoned for and when the change will take place. 

The other parties in the case — Sapp’s clients and the U.S. Department of Justice — have until June 11 to respond to the school board’s proposal, according to a court order by U.S. District Judge Corey Maze. 

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.