- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

AMITE, La. (AP) - A federal judge has approved an alternative plan for desegregating Tangipahoa Parish schools.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1Jr8QiO ) the new student assignment plan calls for expanding magnet programs, changing grade configurations at certain campuses and redrawing attendance zones rather than building three new elementary schools as previously ordered.

School district officials repeatedly have said they could not afford to build the three new schools after voters in 2011 overwhelmingly rejected a series of taxes that would have paid for the construction and related costs. They says the alternative plan would desegregate the schools faster and more affordably by using program enhancements to draw students across attendance lines to under-capacity and racially segregated campuses.

The new plan, which U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle approved Tuesday, is slated to go into effect starting with the 2016-17 school year. If all goes well, the school system would be declared unitary, or desegregated, in the area of student assignment by the end of the 2019-20 school year.

School Board President Brett Duncan said Thursday that district officials are huddling to determine how best to implement the new plan.

“They’re also going to be making sure we spend a lot of time, effort and resources educating parents on what this new plan will mean for each of their families,” Duncan said.

Gideon T. Carter III, a lawyer representing the parish’s black community in negotiations over the student assignment plan, stressed Thursday that the plan is a working document.

“It’s supposed to start the process, so as we proceed, that document is going to change, and the changes may be substantial,” Carter said. “The final product may not even look like what’s attached to the motion.”

Asked if there are particular areas of the approved plan he anticipates would change, Carter said, “We’re looking at all aspects of the plan, including attendance zones, facilities and student capacities. All of those issues have to be considered.”

He said there is no single area of the plan that particularly concerns him.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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