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Arts school to ring in year with 143 students

Mississippi School of the Arts will start the school year nextMonday with 143 students, which is right around their usual number,school officials said.

MSA Principal Jana Perry said the school has had as many as 146in the past, and added that having to pay a room and board fee mayhave made a difference in recruiting this year.

“One thing, enrollment is slightly down because of room andboard,” she said. “This is the first time we’ve gone out to recruitand room and board have been an issue. Last year it was tagged bythe Legislature after we had already accepted the kids.”

Perry said, however, that the school is exploring somerecruiting strategies in hopes that they can circumnavigate theproblem in upcoming years.

“We’re changing our marketing and recruiting plan to let themknow about our waiver application, plus local communities have beenvery supportive when we’ve asked them to sponsor children in theircommunities,” said Perry, mentioning support from churches andclubs like the Lions and Kiwanis in helping cover the studentfee.

But it’s not just the recruiting efforts that are keeping thechildren within the halls of MSA.

“We’ve got students mowing lawns all summer so they can comeback,” she said. “But in the end, this is nothing we can’t overcomeand market a little different and prepare people a little.”

Perry said some changes that will be made to the way things haverun in the past have received positive feedback.

In addition to a more compact schedule during the day, studentswill be released early on “go-home Fridays.” This gets students wholive far from Brookhaven on the road while there is still daylightto travel, in addition to allowing teachers time for personaldevelopment.

“The teachers are elated because they’ll have some planning timetogether,” she said. “The seniors are the ones who will rememberwhen they had to wait, but of course the juniors won’tremember.”

Things are coming quickly, with students beginning to move in onSaturday, Perry said, and administrators working to coordinatemaster schedules and arrangements with the city schooldistrict.

“It’s fun though, this is a big community time for us, with ourhost families and parent network, and resident life and academicsall working together,” she said. “This is a time we can really feelthe strength of Brookhaven and the people that support us.”

And the school will kick off the new year on Monday night withtheir candlelight service, a tradition started by Dr. Vicki Lambertthe first year the school was in session.

“It’s a formal sit-down dinner and the senior with highest GPAgets to light the education candle, which symbolizes passing thelight of learning on to the next class,” Perry said. “Then we walkup to the bell, and they ring the new school year in.”