BTW High, other schools at risk of losing students as residents relocate from housing communities

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Call it an unintended consequence.

When residents move from Warren, Tulane and Foote Homes, thousands of school children will go too.

While all of these families will ultimately move to a much better living situation, they could be leaving struggling schools in an even tougher situation.

Any day of the week, you'll find kids doing homework, playing games or just hanging out at the Porter Boys and Girls Club in South Memphis.

You might find Director Antonio Harris playing basketball with the kids and even talking a little trash.

Porter is in walking distance from Booker T. Washington High School.

It's where Harris went to school, the place he now coaches basketball and the school many of the Porter kids attend.

The club is a safe place, and a home away from home for those students.

"Our job is to provide some stability on our end," Harris said. "We give them the opportunity to be a child."

Some of that stability might change for many of the young people who live nearby in Foote Homes.

The city's last housing project will be demolished and redeveloped.

According to SCS, roughly half of the students at BTW live at Foote Homes, and when their families move, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said there's a chance they won't come back.

"When you start talking about closing schools and enrollment and all that, you don't want to look up and Booker T. Washington only have a couple of hundred kids. That's such a storied school and it means so much to the community."

Besides her son attending the school, Delores Bayman works at BTW through a temp agency so she'll have a big decision to make soon.

"My baby, he wants to stay at BTW but I don't have any transportation right now for him to get back and forth," Bayman said.

The former Cleaborn Homes resident has been down this road before.

MHA told WREG voucher meetings will start this week, but it seems a lack of communication has led to more uncertainty.

"I don't know what part of town I'm going to be moving to," Bayman told WREG.

Cynthia Crawford lives at the Warren Apartments.

"My biggest concern is the fact that these children have grown up in this area, and they're going into unchartered waters."

Crawford already had her voucher meeting, but said there's a lot of red tape so she's still unsure of where she'll live and where her daughters will attend school.

"My children are 13 and 17 so they're at some very critical ages in their education."

WREG learned between Warren, Tulane and Foote Homes, there are seven schools where enrollment could be affected.

They include:

  • Booker T. Washington High School (6-12)
  • LaRose Elementary
  • Fairley Elementary
  • Geeter Middle School
  • Hamilton Elementary School
  • Hamilton Middle School
  • Hamilton High School

Hopson said projecting the numbers for next year is difficult, let alone the long term impact once families are finally settled.

"As we go through the process of which schools to open, which schools to invest in, the driving factor is the enrollment," he added.

In the meantime, Hopson said what's most important is making sure the children have an easy transition no matter where they go.

"We've got to be smart about where we place these kids when they go different places. We want to make sure that any school that they are enrolled in is going to provide a high quality options."

Hopson added, "When you have kids, particularly older kids, who are transferring to a whole new school, they need additional support. You have cultural issues that come up, you have violence issues that come up."

Bayman said of the whole issue, "That's important to me."

So families like Delores' and the kids who attend the Porter Boys and Girls Club aren't forced to face yet another obstacle.

No word from SCS on how it plans to handle waivers or enrollment for students who want to remain at their current schools if they move out of zone due relocation.

District officials said they've been attending weekly meetings with MHA, and plan to do whatever possible to assist students and families.

 

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