OUR VIEW: School system, community, finally has certainty in what happens next

Published 6:02 pm Friday, September 29, 2023

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“Every year for the past thirty years, the Board has opened the doors of its two high schools, and the hallways and classrooms of LaFayette High School and Valley High School have come alive with students and teachers. This year, the Chambers County Board of Education wants to begin construction of a new high school in the City of Valley.”

That’s how the Honorable Judge Keith Watkins’ full written opinion on the consolidation of the Chambers County School District began.

The 65-page opinion, released on Sept. 22, detailed the entire history of the 50-year-old case and the judge’s reasoning behind his decision.

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After decades of unknowns, we’re glad that the judge’s opinion has been released and that it’s now clear what’s happening next. The interminable limbo that the school district and its students have been stuck in for decades can finally come to an end.

The judge ordered the school district’s chosen location for the new consolidated high school but ordered that LaFayette High School remain open until it’s built.

One reason why Watkins approved the modification of the 1993 order that the school be built on Highway 50 was the sheer number of years that have passed with the district in limbo.

“Every year for the past thirty years, the District has opened the doors of its two high schools. The unfortunate reality is that a Chambers County student who graduated in 1993 from either Valley High School or LaFayette High School is now nearly fifty years old and potentially a parent of a child who graduated in the same system,” Watkins said in the opinion.

The goal of the desegregation order and consolidation of the dual school system has always been to serve all students of the county equally and rid the district of having racially identifiable high schools. But it was also to provide long-term stability to the students, something that can hopefully be accomplished.

Though the decision hasn’t pleased everyone in the county, Watkins said that consolidating the two schools will allow more efficiency in resources and equalize course offerings across the county.

“Students previously zoned for LaFayette High School will have the broader selection of courses and extracurricular activities that have been available to students at Valley High School.”

As the district continues to make and report progress to the court, students and families can at last have certainty in what lies ahead for their school system.