CRENSHAW, Miss. — It was the end of an era for Crenshaw Elementary School on Friday as the school closed after its last day, but many people in Crenshaw are still fighting to keep it open.
This fall, students will attend class in Como and Sardis, about 30 miles away. The North Panola School District voted in late March to close the school, citing declining enrollment, low academic performance and staffing challenges.
Less than 15 children attended classes on the last day. The building will remain open until June 30 to allow parents to register students for schools in Como and Sardis.
The school has long been a focal point of this small Panola County town. It's difficult to find anyone who has not attended.
"I attended Crenshaw Elementary and I taught at Crenshaw Elementary for 32 years," retired teacher Jeanette Crenshaw said.
She is among a number of concerned citizens angry over the North Panola School District's vote to close the school. She says it will leave parents with a difficult decision.
"Where are they going to send their children? Are they going to send them to Como and Greenhill or are they going to do like the rest of the people and switch districts?" she asked.
More than 400 people have signed petitions to stop the closure and urge the school district to rescind their vote.
"I felt strong about it because we have not been treated right from day one," Crenshaw said.
Board member Deborah Armstrong voted against the closure. She says the district's leaders have not been attentive to the community's concerns.
"Our enrollment did decline, but when I reported it to the superintendent, all of the statements from parents about enrollment, he did not come to see what's going on," Armstrong said.
A sense of disconnect is also being felt at Crenshaw City Hall, where Mayor Oscar Barlow says he was blindsided by the decision.
"Very disappointed in the administration over at the central office for not communicating with my administration. We found out about the school closing through the media," Barlow said. "No communication through the district office at all."
The mayor says plans to use the building as a community center are welcomed, but he believes a school is what the community needs most.
So far, the North Panola School District hasn't responded to a request for comment.