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VOL. 132 | NO. 8 | Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Klondike Parents Review Options in Closing

By Bill Dries

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Most students at Klondike Preparatory Academy in North Memphis will be able to attend Vollentine Elementary next school year with transportation provided by Shelby County Schools.

Malika Anderson

That’s what leaders of the state-run Achievement School District told 70 parents, students, teachers and community members Monday, Jan. 9, at a meeting about the closing of Klondike.

Gestalt Community Schools announced in October it would pull out of Klondike and Humes Prep Academy, also in North Memphis, at the end of the current school year because of low enrollment at both schools.

“That is not because we have a lack of confidence in this wonderful school,” ASD superintendent Malika Anderson told the group in the Klondike auditorium. “That is not because we have a lack of confidence in the wonderful teachers in this building who have been working their behinds off to serve our babies well.”

The Achievement School District is for Tennessee public schools in the bottom 5 percent in terms of student achievement. The ASD can directly run the schools it chooses to take over or it can hire charter operators to run the schools for it. The schools have a turnaround model that includes additional state funding for longer school days, the hiring of a new faculty and school leadership as well as teacher assistants for quicker intervention with students who are falling behind.

ASD leaders meet Wednesday evening with parents, teachers and students at Humes for a public hearing on the application by charter school group Frayser Community Schools, which operates Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School for the ASD, to run Humes as well.

The Wednesday meeting is at 5 p.m. at Humes, 659 N. Manassas St.

Anderson said in the case of Klondike, no charter operator was interested in applying to run the school, which has 194 students currently.

There was some thought of a combined K-8 ASD school at Humes that ultimately went nowhere.

Anderson said the ASD also considered directly running Klondike as it has done with five schools in Frayser.

“Honestly, we could not make it work,” Anderson said, citing the same reasons Gestalt gave for pulling out – the finances of running a school with such a low enrollment.

“There aren’t enough students in this school to provide the full students’ program that our kids deserve,” Anderson said, citing discussions with SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson about Klondike.

“The reality is this. Our babies deserve to go to a close-by school,” Anderson said. “They deserve to be able to stay in the neighborhood. They deserve to go to a higher-performing school and they deserve support making choices that make sense for them.”

That means Vollentine Elementary, which is less than a mile east from Humes on Vollintine Avenue. Vollentine is a Level 3 school in student growth as judged by the 2015 Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System – or TVAAS – ranking. Klondike is a Level 1 school – the lowest ranking – by 2015 TVAAS results.

Memphis-based Gestalt is offering to talk to parents about relocating Klondike students to the Power Center Academy schools it runs in Hickory Hill. The Power Center Academies are not part of the ASD.

The open enrollment period for schools in the Shelby County system that have available space begins later this month.

Klondike was added to the ASD in the 2013-2014 school year, the second school year for the ASD.

Humes was one of the schools the ASD took over in its first year of operation.

Both takeovers were phased-in transitions, with Gestalt adding a grade or two per school year.

Hopson opposed the phase-in approach that located ASD efforts in the same school along side conventional school operations.

Anderson clarified that the ASD is not closing Klondike. She said the ASD will not be “operating” the school at the end of the current school year.

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