VOL. 131 | NO. 239 | Thursday, December 1, 2016
SCS Board Mulls Details of Right-Sizing Plan
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Schools board members may push a vote on a proposal to close seven schools and build three new ones to February instead of January. A review of the proposal by the SCS board Tuesday, Nov. 29, still keeps in place a vote at the Dec. 6 school board meeting that would start a process of public meetings to gauge the reaction of parents affected by changes.
But school board members said at Tuesday’s work session they want the public hearings to be spread across several dates so they can attend them with parents.
Meanwhile, SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson indicated he will begin talking with Shelby County Commission members and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell about capital funding that will be necessary for the new school construction proposed.
Hopson said his initial discussion with commissioners and Luttrell have been favorable toward the general plan. He also had a more specific timetable for parts of the right-sizing plan that would unfold over several years.
Dunbar and Carnes elementary schools would close at the end of the current school year with demolition of both schools to follow. Hopson said the Dunbar school site could become what he termed a “Golden Wildcat Lane” similar to Tiger Lane at the Fairgrounds. Dunbar is near Melrose High School and the lane would be a tailgating area for those attending Melrose football games.
The Carnes site has been mentioned as part of an overall plan for redevelopment of the Pinch District that includes an expansion of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The plan to demolish Goodlett Elementary School and build a new school on the site to consolidate Knight Road Elementary into the new Goodlett, as well as a similar move at Alcy Elementary to consolidate Charjean and Magnolia elementary schools into it would take effect in the 2018-2019 school year.
And Hopson indicated Tuesday that a plan to build a K-12 Woodstock School in north Shelby County has a more tentative opening date of 2019-2020 as he continues to explore options. The site is also tentative. Hopson said the new school building could either be built on the site of the current Woodstock Middle School or on land south of Rust Road currently owned by Shelby County government.
The Woodstock K-12 school would mean closing Lucy and Northaven elementary schools, and would draw high school-aged students from Trezevant and Bolton high schools.
The idea has drawn some opposition from Northaven parents as well as some support from them, said school board member Stephanie Love, who represents the area. Love said she had concerns about the 5.3-mile distance between the Northaven area and Woodstock.
Hopson said putting a K-12 school in the area is “complicated” and could work differently than current methods to improve student achievement levels.
“We’ve got to do something,” he said. “The status quo out there is not cutting it.”
In other discussions Tuesday, school board members appeared poised to approve next week a rebid of life insurance coverage for retired teachers.
The board urged the administration to rebid the insurance contract after approving a renewal rate with MetLife in August.
MetLife was the only bidder in the first round and its premiums increased dramatically by $7.2 million for the same coverage. The second RFP in September drew seven bidders including MetLife and the school system’s actuarial consultant said it was because the competitors knew what MetLife’s renewal terms were.
SCS administrators and a benefits task force that includes school system employees is recommending a new contract with Minnesota Life to be voted on by the board next week that is $6 million cheaper than what MetLife would cost. In the three-year rate guarantee, retirees would keep their coverage and pay 25 percent of premiums to 75 percent paid by the district.
And recommendations from a charter school advisory committee drew some concerns from school board attorney Rodney Moore, who said some of the proposals might conflict with state law.
He specifically mentioned a proposal that would set up a process for the school board to shut down a charter school if it fails to meet student achievement expectations for three consecutive school years.
Some school board members argued that the board could accept the guidelines without making them policy or binding, or simply vote to receive the report from the group.