HAMMOND, La. -- A federal court judge has approved the Tangipahoa Parish School Board's desegregation plan calling for construction of new schools, creation of magnet programs and nearly $200 million in new taxes, court records show.

U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle, of New Orleans, signed the order Thursday that approved the school board's plan with some modifications. 'We are extremely happy with this great news,' parish Schools Superintendent Mark Kolwe said in a written statement. 'This plan is virtually identical to the proposed order our attorneys submitted in response to the judge's request. The court's order sets out a plan that has the potential to make the Tangipahoa Parish School System a world-class public education system.'

The school board had submitted its plan to U.S. District Court in New Orleans in June and participated in days of witness testimony throughout the summer. Closing arguments for the plan were presented in August.

Patricia Morris, president of the Tangipahoa Parish chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said she was not surprised by Thursday's ruling because the plan follows federal desegregation guidelines.

'Whether or not they will implement what they say they are going to do, we'll wait and see,' Morris said.

Morris added that the plan is contingent upon Tangipahoa Parish voters approving the proposed $200 million in new taxes.

'All of this is contingent on people voting in a new tax,' Morris said. 'I don't see it.'

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