Students load a Cleveland School District bus outside of the new Cleveland Central High School.

CLEVELAND  — A breakdown of the drop in enrollment at Cleveland School District shows the majority of students who left went to private schools.

A total of 224 students have transferred out of the district since May 2017.

Because new students have also transferred in, overall enrollment is only down by 100, bringing the total from 3,502 to 3,402.

Superintendent Jacquelyn Thigpen indicated the decline was not significant.

“We always have some to go. I can’t answer for parent choice,” she said.

Cleveland School District Superintendent Jacquelyn Thigpen reads a breakdown of enrollment numbers at a board meeting on Monday.

This year marks a new era for Cleveland School District, one in which its middle and high schools merged because of a May 2016 federal desegregation order.

A desegregation lawsuit brought against the Bolivar County Board of Education in 1955 initiated the litigation which went on for 62 years before a federal judge ordered the consolidation.

Cleveland School District initially fought the decision, citing concerns about white flight as one of the reasons to challenge the order. But the district dropped appeals last spring and school began in August with a consolidated Cleveland Central High School and a consolidated Cleveland Middle School.

An analysis of the enrollment numbers in August showed that the number of white students who left the district was higher than the total number of students to transfer out.

The 224 students who left the district transferred out as follows:

  • Out of state – 59 students
  • Bayou Academy – 43 students
  • North Sunflower Academy – 10 students
  • Washington School – 2 students
  • Indianola Academy – 3 students
  • Mississippi School of Math and Science – 8 students
  • Presbyterian Day School – 3 students

They  departed the district from the following schools:

  • Cleveland Central High School – 56 students
  • Cleveland Central Middle School – 51 students
  • Parks Elementary School – 37 students
  • Hayes Cooper – 25 students
  • D.M. Smith Middle School – 16 students

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Kelsey Davis Betz is from Mobile, Ala., and currently lives in Cleveland, where she worked as a Mississippi Delta-based reporter covering education and intersecting issues. Kelsey has a dual degree in journalism and Spanish from Auburn University and worked as an editorial intern at Texas Monthly and a courts reporter at the Montgomery Advertiser. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report and is a co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.