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VOL. 129 | NO. 70 | Thursday, April 10, 2014

Collierville Explores New School Options

By Bill Dries

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The Collierville Schools system is about to start the process of finding a site for a new high school and determining how much it would cost.

The Collierville school board voted unanimously Tuesday, April 8, to have the school system’s staff begin developing a request for the qualifications of an architect and planners to come up with plans for the school and select a site.

The first step in a long process was recommended by Collierville Schools superintendent John Aitken.

“It has become apparent that we will probably be needing another school in the future,” Aitken told the board. “I do think it has some sense of urgency, and I feel like we need to begin this process now.”

AITKEN

Beginning the process does not mean the school system has committed itself to building a new school or even specifically a high school.

“Right now, Collierville High is sitting at about 1,950 kids. If you looked at the programatic capacity it says 2,000,” Aitken said after the meeting as he talked about future students and Collierville’s interlocal agreement with Germantown schools. “Moving forward, due to the agreement, if you add about 200 a year, you can see that in about three or four years you are going to be stretched beyond what you can do in that facility. So you’ve either got to look at portables, reconfiguring some grade structures at some other schools.”

And those options may still be used depending on cost estimates and the availability of enough land for a comprehensive high school.

“This board has been pretty emphatic about the need for Collierville kids in Collierville schools. That’s the goal moving forward,” Aitken added. “I think the first stab at what we look at will be a site big enough for a high school and then evaluate based on what we find there.”

Aitken has also discussed the first steps in the process with Mayor Stan Joyner and the Collierville Board of Aldermen.

Meanwhile, Aitken continues to hire a central office for the school system, which plans to move out of Collierville Town Hall and into offices at Collierville High School the second week in May.

Like other school systems in Shelby County, Collierville is still estimating how many students it will have for the upcoming academic year.

The eight schools to be in the Collierville Schools system in August currently have a head count of 7,500. And so far, Aitken estimates the headcount based on preliminary enrollment forms from parents indicate that should be about how many children attend those eight schools next year – possibly up to 7,700 – taking into account students living in Collierville and about 700 students from outside its city limits who have applied to attend Collierville schools.

“We’ve got a couple of schools with some space issues. But based on the priorities we’ve set in our policy, if they are already with us or they have siblings with us, they can get on the priority list,” Aitken said. “Those we’re pretty certain are going to get in.”

Still to come are interlocal services agreements among the six suburban school systems for shared services such as payroll and student data as well as transportation and food for students during the school day.

In Collierville’s case, each school will have an independently managed kitchen and kitchen staff to prepare student lunches, and a shared staff to do the paperwork and other back office items.

“The hue and cry was let’s put our ladies back to work serving meals,” said Collierville Schools board chairman Mark Hansen.

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