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VOL. 129 | NO. 39 | Wednesday, February 26, 2014

School Board Approves 10 School Closings

By Bill Dries

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The Shelby County Schools board voted Tuesday, Feb. 25, to close 10 Memphis schools with the new school year.

But the final plan approved by the board on a split vote and recommended by superintendent Dorsey Hopson gave a one-year reprieve on closing Northside High School, removed Alcy Elementary School from the list completely and keeps Riverview Middle School open but closes neighboring Riverview Elementary School to make Riverview Middle a k-8 school starting next August.

The board approved the closing of Westhaven Elementary School in southwest Memphis for the coming school year and sending students at the school now to nearby Fairley and Raineshaven Elementary Schools.

But the board also voted to seek capital funding from the Shelby County Commission in the budget season to build a new school on the site of Westhaven that would replace all three schools in the area.

The present Westhaven school will be demolished. The school’s structural issues were what prompted Hopson to recommend the closing of a building he described as being in the worst condition of any school building in the system.

School board member Shante Avant pushed to keep Westhaven Elementary open for the 2014-2015 school year and build the new school on a different part of the site.

But Hopson urged the board not to do it because of the logistics of using portable classrooms and difficulties the school system has encountered in similar construction scenarios.

Other school board members questioned what the school system would do if the county commission does not approve funding for a new Westhaven Elementary at least for the new fiscal year. Board member David Pickler thought it unlikely the commission would fund any new school construction.

However, the board also voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a resolution by Avant that calls on the commission to fund a new Westhaven school.

The Riverview k-8 school to come complicates the school system’s previous strategy for Carver High School and puts the south Memphis high school on the same bubble as Northside.

The preliminary recommendation for Carver had been to keep it open and merge Riverview Middle School into Carver and make Carver a 6-12 school.

Hopson said the school system will work on strategies for both high schools with possibilities including locating alternative schools the school system plans to move anyway to the two campuses.

The strategies also include trying to develop programs that will draw more students to the under-utilized school buildings and at the same time improve student achievement as well as basic literacy at the schools.

But Hopson made no guarantees about the future for the high schools beyond next year. And he noted that in Northside’s case, its under utilization was mostly a result of more students living in the area who are zoned to Northside who do not attend the school than do attend the school.

These are the other closings approved Tuesday by the school board:

•Corry Middle School students who do not attend the Achievement School District school on the site will be zoned to Hamilton Middle School with the new school year.

•Cypress Middle School is another colocation with the ASD using the KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools. Students from Cypress who don’t attend KIPP go to Grandview Heights Middle School.

Gordon Elementary School will merge with Caldwell-Guthrie Elementary School, itself the product of an earlier merger between the once-separate Caldwell and Guthrie schools.

•Graves Elementary School will close and its students will go to Ford Road Elementary School with part of Ford Road’s current attendance zone closer to Levi Elementary School than Ford Road being reassigned to Levi.

•Klondike Elementary School will close and its students will attend Vollentine Elementary School with the new school year.

•Lanier Middle School closes and its students will be sent to A. Maceo Walker Middle School. Hopson indicated he is working on a plan to reuse the Lanier building as a 9th grade academy for Whitehaven High School to be operated by a charter school.

Shannon Elementary School is another ASD school with a partial takeover of several grades per school year. The Achievement School District starts with kindergarten and the first grade in the coming school year. The students in other grades will attend Douglass k-8 starting in August.

•Vance Middle School will close next school year and its students will attend Booker T. Washington High School which becomes a 6-12 school. Hopson’s final recommendation is that the Vance building could house a regional schools office or become an alternative school.

In other action, Tuesday, the school board unanimously approved renaming Fairview Middle School as the school prepares for a transition to optional school status in the new school year with a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – or STEAM – curriculum.

The new name of the school will be the Maxine Smith STEAM Academy in honor of the late Memphis City Schools board member, NAACP executive secretary and civil rights icon.

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