A court case that began nearly 40-years ago could impact school Superintendent Bill Husfelt's plans to close a local middle school. And if Husfelt goes through with his plans, he could wind up in court.
School board members will vote Wednesday afternoon on which school campuses to close next fall. But saving money isn't the only thing they need to consider. Some believe the court case; "Youngblood vs. The Board of Public Instruction of Bay County" should also impact their decision.
In the 1960's Rosenwald's campus served African American students. So did Patterson Elementary School and what was then A.D. Harris Elementary.
The 1970 federal court case ""Youngblood vs. The Board of Public Instruction of Bay County" ordered the district to desegregate. A consent decree later in 1987, set forth other rules for the three schools, rules which some believe will be broken if the school board decides to close Rosenwald Middle.
"The 1987 consent decree says Rosenwald should remain open and used as a middle school for no less than 10 years and meet the criteria of all the other schools in the county as far as racial battles and numbers. The county has never met the criteria in all those years," said Myron Hines, who was involved in the case through the group ACURE.
But district officials have a different interpretation of the ruling, and say they have made an effort to abide by the terms.
"The period of time of the requirement was 10 years and that expired in 1998. So I don't think there's any question that the school board can make a decision to re-purpose those schools or close those schools. I think while they are open and continue to operate they need to operate under the terms agreed upon in the consent decree and I think we've been doing that or trying to," said Franklin Harrison, Bay Co. School Board Attorney.
Regardless of Wednesday’s outcome, the campuses will remain open until next fall. But if school board members decide to close Rosenwald, Hines says they will take it to court.
"If they don't keep Rosenwald open and use it as a middle school, we'll challenge it," said Hines.
Rosenwald's school advisory chairman says the only way the school can be closed is if all of the parties in the lawsuit agree to dismiss the consent decree.
But School Board Attorney Franklin Harrison says he believes the district is acting appropriately and a lawsuit would be a waste of money during an already challenging time.
Wednesday's special school board meeting on closing and re-purposing will take place at 5:30 p.m. in the Nelson Administration Building.