JPS to close four elementary schools

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Four elementary schools in the Jackson Public School District will close beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

On Tuesday night, the Board of Trustees approved a recommendation to close Brown, George, Woodville Heights and French elementary schools.

The decision comes from a feasibility study the district conducted to determine which schools might warrant closure. Last fall, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba warned school closures may be necessary.

Kayleigh Skinner, Mississippi Today

An audience listens as the JPS school board details the upcoming closure of four elementary schools.

Interim superintendent Frederick Murray said a combination of dwindling state funds, declining enrollment, and the cost of maintaining aging facilities factored into the decision.

Brown, French, and George elementary schools were selected because they each had enrollments with less than 200 students and faced $2 to $4 million in repairs or updates. Woodville Heights was selected because the school is facing $4 million in repairs.

There are currently 25 elementary schools in the district — last year the previous school board approved the consolidation of Barr and Poindexter elementary schools for similar reasons.

Board member Ed Sivak said the board toured each of the schools and attended community meetings about possible closure for all but one of the schools. Members saw a paradox, he said: students were doing what they were supposed to, but the learning took place in subpar facilities.

“On one hand you see students who are walking in lines, who are happy, who are listening to their teachers reading them books,” Sivak said. “And the paradox is the backdrop which is rusty pipes, buckling floors. Not always, but in many instances facilities that need a lot of work at a time when the resources are just not there.”

Multiple members said it was an incredibly difficult decision, but keeping all four schools open was no longer financially viable.

Students from Brown will attend Galloway and students from French will go to Lake or Raines elementary schools. Students from George will move to Isable or Casey elementary schools, and Woodville Heights students will move to Bates, Oak Forest, or Timberlawn elementary schools.

A release from the district said teachers from these schools “will be extended opportunities to fill vacancies at other schools and offices.”

Board members also said they would work with the communities to find other uses for the facilities.

The board also approved a contract with McPherson and Jacobson LLC to conduct the search for the next superintendent. The Omaha, Neb.-base firm will help the district get a permanent leader in place by July 1.