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VOL. 128 | NO. 47 | Friday, March 8, 2013

Countywide Board Approves Realignments

By Bill Dries

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When the first school year of the consolidated school system begins Aug. 5, the new school system will open its first new school.

And most of what are now city and county schools will have the same grade structures for elementary, middle and high schools.

The countywide school board approved Tuesday, March 5, the last of four realignments in the four regions of the Memphis City Schools system.

The realignment is a process that began in 2009 before the first moves toward consolidation were made.

The board also approved this week attendance zone for the new Belle Forest Community School, an elementary school in southeast Memphis.

The $15 million school on 12.5 acres near Ridgeway Road and Knight Arnold Road is almost complete.

Both proposals now go to a series of public hearings the school district will hold this month in the affected areas.

The countywide school board has approved the last of four realignments in the four regions of the Memphis City Schools system.

And both plans demonstrate the kind of shifting and changing zones that determine where students go to school that will remain a constant of running a school system long after the merger is past its shakedown period.

Belle Forest will ease overcrowding at four nearby elementary schools – Oak Forest, Germanshire, Hickory Ridge and Winridge.

The bulk of the pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students at Belle Forest, approximately 400, will come from what is now about half of Oak Forest’s attendance zone.

Oak Forest will go below the 100 percent plus utilization rate and not have to use the portable classrooms it now uses.

But Denise Sharp, director of the Memphis City Schools Office of Comprehensive Planning, told board members she expects the number of fifth graders next school year at Oak Forest might not drop as much as it does later. That’s because students in their last year at the school can request what is called a “terminal transfer” to stay assigned there because it is their last year.

The changes at Belle Forest and the four other schools will also prompt shifts in attendance zones at four other schools aimed at relieving overcrowding at Crump and Newberry Elementary schools.

Newberry is at 165.6 percent of its capacity currently and would lose 120 students to Cromwell Elementary.

Ross Elementary would add 183 students from Crump in the attendance zone shift.

Meanwhile, the southwest region of the school system is the last of the four regions in Memphis City Schools to get a grade reconfiguration.

All but six schools in the city school system now have one of three structures: pre-kindergarten through fifth grades, sixth through eighth grades and ninth through 12th grades.

The exceptions are five schools that are kindergarten through eighth and the Campus School at the University of Memphis, which is first through fifth grades.

“We’ve been trying now for years and years to bring some uniformity to our schools,” said interim Memphis City Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

At the outset of the process in 2009, an MCS in-house study showed there were 11 grade configurations across the system. Some of the county schools that became part of the city school system when the areas they were in were annexed included kindergarten through fourth grade structures as well as grades fifth through eighth.

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