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VOL. 132 | NO. 19 | Thursday, January 26, 2017

Shelby County Schools Board to Vote on Closing Dunbar, Carnes Elementary

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Schools board members will vote next week on closing Carnes and Dunbar elementary schools effective at the end of the current school year. The board reviewed the recommendation from superintendent Dorsey Hopson at a Tuesday, Jan. 24, work session with little debate.

Shelby County Schools board members vote next week on closing Carnes and Dunbar elementary schools, which have low enrollment and low student achievement levels.

(Daily News/Patrick Lantrip)

Hopson and his staff will hold a second round of meetings with parents of students at both schools before the Jan. 31 board vote.

“We aim to dramatically improve the learning environment and increase education opportunities,” Hopson said of the plan to send Carnes students to Downtown and Bruce elementary schools. Students at Dunbar would be zoned to attend Bethel Grove and Cherokee elementary schools.

“The impacted schools … are among the worst in terms of physical conditions in the school system,” Hopson said. “The main driver with these recommendations, particularly around Dunbar, is to improve academic performance.”

While low enrollment at each – Carnes with 223 and Dunbar with 291 – was a factor, Hopson said the leading factor was the academic performance of students at each school and the limits their small enrollments put on the school system’s ability to offer academic programs.

“I want to be clear. We’ve seen some growth over the years in math,” he said of Dunbar. “But the cold reality is that for the last state rankings … Dunbar is in the bottom 5 percent.”

School board member Mike Kernell, whose district includes Dunbar, argued that the school recently posted student growth numbers indicating it is a Level 3 school under TVAAS – Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System – standards, up from a Level 1, the lowest ranking.

“We only get the information in the picture to approve the plan,” he complained. “There’s a lot of information we are just not looking at.”

But Hopson said because new student achievement tests for third through eighth grade weren’t counted last year in a disastrous rollout of those tests, the Level 3 is because of second-grade scores.

“They are still in the bottom 5 percent (of schools statewide in terms of student achievement),” Hopson said. “Orange Mound is a special place, but at the end of the day, the building is in bad shape and the achievement is low.”

SCS intends to operate a shuttle bus for parents of students at both schools to make it to parent-teacher conferences and other activities. It is also exploring several other future changes that include construction of a new Alcy Elementary School and a new Goodlett Elementary. Both would be built on their existing sites and would be larger to consolidate neighboring elementary schools into them, and then close those other schools.

The school to be consolidated into the new Alcy would be Knight Road Elementary.

Charjean and Magnolia would close and their students sent to the new and larger Goodlett.

Hopson is also exploring a longer-range plan to build a Woodstock K-12 school in north Shelby County on or near the site of the current Woodstock Middle School and close Northaven and Lucy elementarys.

In other items at Tuesday’s work session, SCS is preparing to end its contract for custodial services with GCA of Knoxville. The company was awarded the $21.9 million contract in 2013.

The decision to outsource custodial services at schools was a controversial move away from in-house custodians that saved the system $13 million.

Hopson said over the term of the contract, service “dramatically decreased” after years of complaints from school administrators.

“We just think that after five years, it’s time to try something else,” he added. “I don’t think we are ever going to get back to the level of cleanliness we had when it was in-house.”

So Hopson is recommending SCS be split into three zones for cleaning, with Aramark getting the contract for one of the zones and ServiceMaster Clean getting the contract for the two other zones.

The board votes on the contracts at its meeting next week.

MORTGAGES 110 170 916
BUILDING PERMITS 133 290 1,948