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North Memphis school closure leaves questions for neighborhood

MEMPHIS, Tenn.-- Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson withdrew his recommendation to close Dunbar Elementary in Orange Mound.

Hopson said community involvement and outcry to save Dunbar are what changed his decision.

"I’m glad! It needs to stay open. I went here when I was a kid from kindergarten until sixth," said mom, Andreli Young, outside of Dunbar on Wednesday.

Young was picking up her 10-year-old son Tredarius Young who said he was initially angry when he heard his school was supposed to close but since the decision was reversed he couldn't be happier.

"Jumping and laughing and we was happy," he said.

However in a different part of town there's a different fate for Carnes Elementary in north Memphis.

Tuesday night the Shelby County School Board voted to close Carnes.

It’s clear the neighborhood surrounding Carnes Elementary has seen better days.

82-year-old James Payne remembers them.

"Things change. And I’ve seen a lot of change. I remember when houses was all through here. This apartment been closed for several years," said Payne.

He lives across the street from the school. He sees the students come and go every day and believes it’s one of the remaining pillars in the neighborhood.

With dwindling enrollment the district says Carnes will be closed and students will be sent to Bruce or Downtown Elementary.

”I think it’s awful. I think it should stay open because it’s one of the oldest schools around," he said.

The school sits in an area on the edge of the Bicentennial Gateway Project. It's a plan to reinvigorate the Convention Center, Pinch District, Mud Island, Riverfront, St. Jude neighborhood and other surrounding areas. Paul Young, Director of Memphis Housing and Community Development is working on the project. He understands the concerns about Carnes closing.

"It definitely has challenges which is why we would like to expand our TIF, tax increment financing, into that area so that we are able to support that community and provide more work force housing. It’s very close to St. Jude and Le Bonheur," he said.

Young said he had an idea the school would be on the chopping block but now says the city plans to work with Shelby County Schools and the School Board.

"So that whatever happens to the school moving forward is something that is not going to be a blight on the community. It will be something that will help to continue renovation," he explained.

While Payne is sad to see the school shut it’s doors, he’s trying to stay optimistic about the future.

"Maybe what they planning on doing is better," he said.

The city says they will eventually look for community input for the area as well.