SCS to close three charter schools & begin closure process for three schools

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- After an extended public comment period and discussion between Shelby County School Board Members, the district voted to close three charter schools and begin the closure process for three SCS schools.

An additional three charter schools that were on the chopping block will be allowed to remain open.

The board voted to close Omni Prep Lower, Omni Prep Middle, and Southern Avenue Middle.

These three charters fall in the state's bottom five percent.

The board voted not to revoke the charters for KIPP Collegiate Middle, KIPP Collegiate High, and the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering.

The district originally proposed closing all six, claiming the schools violated their contracts to reach the standards they set.

Board Member Kevin Woods put forth a motion to close just the three charters in the bottom five percent, but his motion did not pass. It was not until the board voted school by school that they came to that conclusion.

The board 9-0 in favor of starting the closure process for Carver High School, Northside High School, and Messick Adult High School.

These decisions come amid major budget concerns.

Earlier this month, the district announced there is an $86 million budget gap between what the district wants and the funding it expects for next school year.

The district proposed millions in cuts, with the hope that the county or state could provide about $36 million.

The district said the proposed closures would save millions.

The schools on the list for closure have issues like low enrollment or poor performance.

The district said that if the closures are approved, teachers at those schools would have to reapply for positions elsewhere in the district.

Carver High School students would go to Hamilton, which has more resources as an iZone school.

Northside High School students would go to Manassas, which the district said is showing literacy growth.

Messick Adult High School students who are on track to graduate would transition to Northwest Prep, Virtual School, or a GED program offered by Hope Works or Goodwill.

Before Carver, Northside, or Messick might close, there will be a community engagement process with meetings for feedback.

Students currently attending the closed charter schools will attend either their zoned school or they could transfer to another school that has space.

Dunbar Elementary was initially named for possible closure, but the district indicated the school the students would transfer to could close soon as well.

"Our schools are part of the neighborhoods. They're part of the communities, and just because we have budget issues that force us to close them, doesn't mean that that transition is just automatically going to happen smoothly," said Dr. Randy McPherson with SCS Student Behavior and Leadership.

These types of proposed changes can come with safety concerns as students from different schools and different neighborhoods come together under one roof.

The district said in these situations, it communicates with students about the change and can increase the security presence if necessary.

At Tuesday's meeting, the board also approved some grade reconfigurations, including at Raleigh Egypt High School.

It will make the high school grades 6-12.

This particular grade reconfiguration is significant because it gives parents and students a choice to stay with SCS or go to the state-run Achievement School District.

The ASD is taking over Raleigh Egypt Middle School.

Several people at the meeting also spoke out against proposed cuts to teacher benefits.