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VOL. 8 | NO. 30 | Saturday, July 18, 2015

Germantown Eyes Area South of Poplar for Elementary School

By Bill Dries

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Germantown leaders are looking for land south of Poplar Avenue in Germantown for a new elementary school for the Germantown Municipal School District.


“South of Poplar we want to have a community school, an elementary school,” Germantown Municipal School District superintendent Jason Manuel said on the WKNO TV program “Behind The Headlines.”

“You can see all of the schools are north of Poplar,” Manuel said. “And so we are looking at something that is on 15-plus acres. There are very few properties that are 15-plus acres south of Poplar. So there’s probably three or four potential sites that we have identified.”

Behind The Headlines can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com, and is hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News.

Building a new elementary school and possible an addition onto Riverdale K-8 school in the suburban school district are two possibilities the school system and other elected Germantown leaders are considering this summer.

Germantown is one of three suburban school systems in Shelby County considering new school construction.

Collierville raised its property tax rate in June by 25 cents, which along with sales tax revenue would pay the cost of building a $100-million comprehensive high school to replace the existing Collierville High School. The next step is a bond issue.

Lakeland officials saw voters reject a $50-million bond issue for a new grades 6-12 school in an April referendum and are now considering a $20-million middle school.

Manuel said the first year of operation for Germantown’s school system drew 5,700 students, more than expected and more growth is certain in the years ahead as well as portable classrooms.

Riverdale K-8 has 22 portables. Farmington Elementary School uses four. And Dogwood Elementary School could start adding portable classrooms in the school year that begins in August.

Germantown officials are being cautious in considering options and building public support.

“We want to make sure that we left no stone unturned,” Manuel said. “Are there other things we could do besides building? Right now, I think everyone is on board and know the consensus of the need. How we solve it is a different issue.”

Preliminary cost estimates for a new elementary school are about $15 million, not including the cost of buying the land, Manuel said. A Riverdale addition comes in at $7 million to $10 million with a sight analysis still pending at this point.

A new elementary school would take two to three years to build, with a Riverdale addition taking nine months because the school system already owns the land there.

Like Collierville Schools leaders, Manuel is part of a summer campaign to sound out the tax-paying public and if they are receptive start building support for a new elementary school.

If that happens, he said the school system could have the land deal closed by October.

Part of the discussion is the presence of the existing Germantown Elementary, Middle and High Schools – known at the three Gs – which are within the city borders of Germantown but which remain part of Shelby County Schools.

As part of the schools demerger terms in which SCS turned over school building to the newly formed suburban school districts, the three Gs remain with Shelby County Schools to handle school overcrowding in southeast Memphis and Shelby County.

“At this time (Shelby County Schools officials) are not willing to relinquish those schools to us and for good reason,” Manuel said. “They have students who are in those facilities. The schools are successful schools with high quality programs. Their motivation to deal with our capacity issues aren’t a priority.”

Students living in Germantown can attend the three Gs or attend other schools in the Germantown Municipal Schools district.

The question of new school construction and/or expansion also involves the certainty that some kind of Germantown property tax hike would be necessary to pay for either or both projects, although not the whole amount.

Manuel argued the discussion is different in Germantown than in Lakeland, which didn’t have a property tax until its residents voted to form a municipal school district.

“Germantown’s taxes aren’t that much different than city of Memphis,” he said referring to a Germantown rate of $1.93 compared to the Memphis rate of $3.40. “That may be an issue for Lakeland which does have much lower taxes. But for us, we’ve always had a higher tax rate which is comparable to Memphis residents. So it’s not a big sticker shock.”

PROPERTY SALES 61 61 6,453
MORTGAGES 46 46 4,081
BUILDING PERMITS 113 113 15,474