- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) - Meridian Public School District is ending its association with an afterschool program at Freedom Rock Christian Fellowship Church because of the church’s application to open a charter school in the city.

The school board took the action Wednesday.

Freedom Rock is among a dozen groups statewide that have filed applications for the first charter schools in Mississippi.

Should Freedom Rock open a charter school, it would be competition with Meridian for students and teachers, Meridian Superintendent Alvin Taylor told The Meridian Star (https://bit.ly/1dval0R ).

“For example, if a charter school came into our district and they were just mildly successful and were able to attract 100 of our students, the Meridian Public School District would lose 100 students, $1 million dollars, 15 teachers and we would have to close a school building. None of our expenses would go down, we would just lose that much money and teachers,” he said.

Elder LaBaron Hedgemon, pastor of Freedom Rock, declined comment.

The Meridian church and its parent organization New Destiny Urban Community Development Corporation have submitted a petition for the New Destiny Charter Academy, also referred to as “The Academy.”

The Academy is a two-phase project, which in the first two years would serve students from K-3. In the third year and beyond, the program would add grades 4-5.

The school district and church entered into an agreement in October 2013 for operation of Freedom Rock’s Camp Destiny afterschool program, which was awarded a $1.7 million 21st Century Grant by the Mississippi Department of Education, with the money to be disbursed over 4-1/2 years.

Taylor said if Freedom Rock doesn’t withdraw its charter school application, its agreement with Meridian schools will end April 26 and the church will lose future grants.

If the church withdraws its application, Taylor said the Meridian school system and Freedom Rock will work out a new agreement on the afterschool program.

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Information from: The Meridian Star, https://www.meridianstar.com

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