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Alabama's largest public-school system secured a $3-million loan last week, ending weeks of negotiation and months of planning for a premature end to the school year.

The Mobile County School Board accepted the terms of a loan from two banks that will keep school doors open until June 10, narrowly avoiding the anticipated April 17 end of the school year, said Barbara Shaw, a spokesman for the district.

But the district, which has a monthly payroll of about $12 million, still needs $4 million in order to meet its payroll in June and July, Ms. Shaw said.

"We dodged a bullet today,'' she said last week, "but we are by no means out of the woods.''

Since October, when Gov. Guy Hunt declared an across-the-board, $145-million cut in the state's education budget, officials in the 67,850-student district have been flirting with an early shutdown.

A sale of some land and temporary bank loans have carried the school district to this point in the year, Ms. Shaw said. (See Education Week, Oct. 16 and Nov. 6, 1991.)

School officials are still hoping for a longer-term solution from legislators, such as an increase in local taxes.

A citizens group in La Crosse, Wis., has filed enough petitions to force recall elections for three board members who supported a plan to bus some students away from their neighborhoods to promote socioeconomic balance in district schools.

The group, Recall Alliance, has criticized the board members as being fiscally irresponsible and out of touch with their community. The group also announced that it was on the verge of getting enough signatures for a recall election of three other board members who supported the plan.

Two other board members who backed the plan were up for re-election this month and lost, district officials said.

Recall Alliance members oppose the busing plan adopted by the board last fall by a vote of 8 to 1. (See Education Week, Oct. 30, 1991.) The plan, they assert, would result in children's being unnecessarily bused too far from their homes.

A state judge in North Carolina has halted the controversial merger of the Durham city and county school systems.

Wake Superior Court Judge D.B. Herring ruled that legislation enacted by the General Assembly last year giving county commissioners the right to create school merger plans themselves is unconstitutional. In doing so, he agreed with the plaintiffs--a group of parents of children in city and county schools--who brought the suit against the county commissioners.

The plaintiffs also claimed that the plan for selecting a new school board for the merged districts violates state law. Under the plan, the board would consist of seven members. State law, the suit charges, says school boards must have five members selected at large.

Judge Herring held that the election for the new board may take place as scheduled on May 5, but that the winners may not take office on July 1, when the consolidation was scheduled to take place.

The commissioners will appeal the decision, a county lawyer said.

A separate suit by the county commissioners against the state education board contesting the state's rejection of the merger plan, is still pending. (See Education Week, Jan. 8, 1992).

Vol. 11, Issue 31

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