Local News

Reassignment Planned For Franklin County

Posted May 25, 2004 5:46 a.m. EDT

— Reassignment is coming to Franklin County. Parents are not used to it there.

An 800-student reassignment plan will be only the third major school shuffle since 1968. But what happened in 1968 makes the shuffle mandatory.

Unlike many of the surrounding counties, reassignment here is not based on a population boom. Franklin County is under a 40-year-old court order to redistrict based on race.

"That makes Franklin County very different than other counties in North Carolina, where it is illegal to do race-based assignment," Superintendent Dr. Bert L'Homme said.

L'Homme's task took hold in the '60s. When Franklin County's Freedom of Choice system failed to integrate schools, a federal court ordered black and white schools to merge.

"It was a turning point, I think, for many places, not only Louisburg," resident Jim Harris said.

Harris would know; He was one of the final graduates from the all-black Riverside School, now called Riverside Elementary.

Harris remembered the turning point. He remembered the trouble for the black students, "the things they went through.

"They were beat upon, being spit upon," he said.

Every year, Franklin County comes under federal review. The goal of the current reassignment plan is to make the reviews go away for good.

That can be a source of accomplishment or uncertainty.

"Not everyone in Franklin County is anxious for the court order to be lifted," L'Homme said.

Said Harris: "This issue will still come up again."

Harris said Franklin County Schools will have to continue to work to avoid a resegregated outcome.

A judge is expected to rule on the district's reassignment proposal by fall. L'Homme said it will not mark an end to reassignment because the county is growing.