MARKSVILLE, La. (AP) — Avoyelles Parish Schools Superintendent Dwayne Lemoine can see the end of the desegregation lawsuit against the district that has been in the courts for more than 40 years.

"I feel like we could be potentially a year away," he said.

The Town Talk reports ( ) the timeline depends on the outcome of an Aug. 24 hearing in federal court in Alexandria with U.S. District Court Judge Dee Drell. The hearing will determine if the parish is "unitary," or desegregated, in two areas -- facilities and staff/teacher assignments.

"We knew going into it that it wasn't going to happen overnight with opposition," Lemoine said. This is his fourth year of working toward unitary status.

The parish's desegregation plan was adopted in 1969. It resurfaced in the late 1980s when the parish had several high schools, including some with only white students, Lemoine said.

The court requested the district submit a revised desegregation plan, which it did four years ago. After it was submitted, the district decided to seek unitary status, or desegregation in all areas.

Teacher assignments have not been opposed by the Department of Justice, but Lemoine said Drell is covering all the bases with the hearing. Lemoine doesn't expect any problems because normally any objections by the DOJ would have been raised by now.

All that remains after the Aug. 24 hearing is curriculum and student assignment and activities, which include sports, clubs and organizations.

Lemoine doesn't know if the DOJ will contest student assignments, but he doesn't expect a problem.

"We have reasonable racial balance in our schools," he said. He wants to remind people that the district is rural, which makes transportation an issue and affects student assignment.

He said the district has a strong "M to M," majority to minority, policy. A student in the majority race at one school can transfer to a school in which he or she would be in the minority.

Lemoine said it gives students more options. He has seen about 50 choose to transfer each year since the policy was put in place. The district comprises about 6,000 students.


Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk,