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Judge OKs new Chambers high school, LaFayette High stays open during construction
By Elizabeth White,
VALLEY, Ala. (WRBL) – A U.S. District Judge has issued a ruling allowing the Chambers County Board of Education to move forward with the construction of a new consolidated high school in Valley. In the same ruling, Judge Keith Watkins denied the School Board’s request for the closure of Lafayette High School and moving those students to the existing Valley High School during construction. The decision was based on the undue transportation burden it would place on LaFayette High School students. So, LaFayette High will remain open during the construction of the new school.
The Chambers County School Superintendent is holding a briefing Tuesday afternoon, September 26th, at the Chambers County Board of Education to discuss the next steps of the plan.
This court’s decision comes after objections were raised regarding the consolidation of the area’s two high schools. Chambers Country situated along the eastern central border of Alabama, has been home to two high schools, LaFayette High School and Valley High School, for the past thirty years. The Chambers County Board of Education proposed building a new high school in Valley to serve all students in the county, uniting them in one facility.
The 65-page written opinion by Judge Watkins on the Lee versus The Chambers County Board of Education is attached below:
The court noted the community strongly believes having one high school for everyone is long overdue. However, there was a disagreement about where the new high school should be built – it was proposed and now approved by the judge to be located on a seventy-four-acre piece of land in Valley, donated by the City of Valley. Also, the plan originally involved closing LaFayette High School and temporarily moving those students to Valley High School until the new school was finished. Because the Chambers County Board of Education is following federal court orders related to desegregation, a federal court has to settle these disputes. The people who opposed this plan were the black students and their guardians in the Chambers County Board of Education’s district, along with the United States. They argue the proposed location for the consolidated high school goes against a prior agreement and places an undue burden on their students to travel. It’s worth noting there are a couple of unusual legal aspects in the case. Firstly, there isn’t a named individual black Plaintiff who is currently a student, but this hasn’t been challenged. Secondly, it’s highly unlikely, and there’s no evidence to suggest, that any black student at Valley High School opposes the consolidation on racial grounds.
Crucially, the Chambers County Board of Education has been operating under federal court desegregation orders for over 50 years. Recent changes in the population prompted the need for consolidation. Superintendent Dr. Casey Chambley recommended the Valley site for the new high school, emphasizing its benefits in terms of desegregation efforts, faculty, resources, and facilities. The court determined permanent consolidation at the proposed Valley site is constitutional and not racially motivated.
As part of the ruling, the Chambers County Board of Education is required to provide progress reports on the planning and construction of the new high school to the court every ninety days, starting from October 31, 2023. This ensures ongoing transparency and compliance with the court’s decision.
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