/JPS eyes school closures, expanded pre-K

JPS eyes school closures, expanded pre-K

Officials announced Friday that the Jackson Public School District will be considering closing schools and consolidating them in order to redistribute resources and offer more education options. Superintendent Errick Greene stated that the proposed changes were based on enrollment trends as well as facility challenges. The school board will receive the suggestions on Dec. 17, for information, and then again on Jan. 7, for a vote. The district will approve: While a dollar figure wasn’t available Friday, Greene stated that the school district would see “fairly significant” savings through rezonings or consolidations, which would allow for more course offerings. Jackson Public Schools, the second-largest school district in the state, has experienced a decrease in enrollment over recent years, like many other public schools. The current school year’s enrollment is 5500 more than five years ago. Four elementary schools were closed last year by the district due to declining enrollment, declining state funds and rising costs of maintaining older facilities. Greene stated that a large part of the reason for closing these schools was to be able reinvest in education in different ways. “With fewer school, you spend the same amount of dollars across fewer school and so the concentration is greater.” These changes would double pre-K accessibility in the district. In October 2018, Greene assumed the leadership of the district. His office presented a five-year strategic plan to improve the district. The plan’s first tenet is a commitment “…ensure every 4-year-old Jackson has access high-quality, full day early learning opportunities.” Greene stated that McWillie will continue to offer its Montessori program but that Boyd would have the capacity to host up to 80 additional pre-K students. Van Winkle will also be serving more pre-K students. Greene stated that Van Winkle’s proposal was not to remove pre-K students from other schools. “These are additional pre-K seats, especially serving the South Jackson neighborhoods.” The consolidations, if approved by the school board next spring, would likely result in staffing changes within district. Greene stated that he doesn’t anticipate teachers losing their jobs. However, some positions such as custodians and office staff may be eliminated if consolidations take place. The exact figures were not known. These changes will also impact the district’s bond offer. The referendum was approved by voters last summer to raise $65 million for the improvement of aging school facilities. Greene stated that the district will work with the bond oversight committee to determine how to redistribute the funds originally allocated to these schools if the school board approves consolidations. The students of Hardy Middle School will be transferred to Blackburn Middle School. However, the district has already made investments in Hardy’s football field, and plans to rebuild the building as part a district-wide athletics complex, Green stated.