The Jackson Public School District introduced a plan Tuesday night to close 16 school buildings due to declining enrollment.
JPS Superintendent Errick Greene told the board this plan was brought forward to be good stewards of the resources the district receives, since the fewer students in a building, the more money it costs per student to operate the building.
The following buildings are on the proposed closure list:
- Clausell Elementary School
- Dawson Elementary School
- G. N. Smith Elementary School
- Green Elementary School
- Key Elementary School
- Lake Elementary School
- Lester Elementary School
- Oak Forest Elementary School
- Obama IB Elementary
- Raines Elementary School
- Shirley Elementary School
- Sykes Elementary School
- Wells APAC Elementary
- Chastain Middle School
- Whitten Middle School
- Wingfield High School
Greene gave several reasons that these school consolidations would be beneficial to the district, citing declining enrollment, the investment to maintain aging buildings, decreasing reliance on emergency certification teachers, freeing up funding to invest in specialized school programs, and decreasing insurance costs by selling or demolishing buildings that are not in use.
Board President Ed Sivak questioned closing eight schools that just received A ratings, to which Greene responded that buildings are not A-rated, staff and children are. He acknowledged that school culture does play a role in success and said efforts will be made to keep staff from a consolidated school together, but reiterated that the physical buildings were not key to the success.
“It’s our job as leaders to help people to see that you are a star wherever you go, and there are opportunities for you to be a star in a building where the bathrooms and the air conditioning and other stuff work,” Greene said.
Greene also said reducing central office staff will be among the next steps in “optimizing” the district.
The school district’s student decline tracks with overall population declines in the city of Jackson. U.S. Census data released earlier this year shows that Jackson’s population now stands at 145,995 — a drop of 3,766 from 2021 to 2022. That 2.5% year-over-year decline makes Jackson the fastest-shrinking city with at least 50,000 residents in the United States.
George Stewart, president of the Jackson Association of Educators, empathized with teachers in these schools.
“I’ve been an educator in Jackson Public Schools for almost 10 years,” he said on Wednesday. “I’ve seen a lot of changes in that time. Change is tough, especially when you serve in one of these schools. I have no doubt JPS, with the city behind it, will meet this challenge and succeed.”
The district will be holding four community meetings to gauge reactions to the plan, with the first scheduled for next Monday, Oct. 9 at 6 p.m. at Forest Hill High School.
A final plan is expected to be presented to the board for a vote at the Dec. 5 meeting.
See the graphic below for the proposed new feeder patterns: