Jackson should close or consolidate 16 schools, Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Errick Greene suggested as he presented a draft optimization plan at a school board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3. His recommendation would consolidate the student populations for 13 elementary, two middle and one high school.
“There’s an opportunity for our programs to be more competitive and to provide for even greater opportunities to show up and really dominate across the board,” Greene said. “There’s no reason why Jackson Public Schools in the City of Jackson shouldn’t be dominating the board.”
Greene said the district’s declining enrollment and facility issues present financial concerns but also decrease opportunities for competitive academic programs. He displayed a graph showing that between the 2015-16 school year and the current year, JPS enrollment has declined by 8,494 students, or an average of 4% or more per year. This proposal is designed to maximize district resources, he said.
“When you have less students in a school, you spend more per school,” Greene told the board. “This optimization or right-sizing is a way of ensuring that we have the optimal resources, classrooms, teachers, technology, restrooms, HVAC (and) all the things that we in many places don’t even blink or think about because they’re right there.”
The Jackson school district has 465 staff vacancies, including 178 certified employees, the superintendent said. There are also about 80 teachers on special non-renewable licenses.
“This issue of stabilizing our staff is very real to us,” Greene said. “With fewer people going into the field of education or getting licensed to be teachers, we are competing across the board with other districts, let alone other fields of work in other industries.”
The proposal makes significant changes in the South Jackson and West Jackson areas of the district. Greene said that although district officials are sympathetic to any changes in those areas, population decline must be addressed.
|The JPS School Board meeting on Oct. 3, 2023 included a proposal by Superintendent Errick Greene to close several school buildings consolidating students, teachers and resources into other existing schools.
“The population decline in South Jackson is real and is outsized when compared to other areas of the district so we are responding to the population decline,” Greene said addressing concerns raised by Ward 6 board member Cynthia Thompson. “We can talk all day about why that is happening but the reality is that it is happening. … It doesn’t make sense for me to close some other schools where they are growing or at capacity when the others continue to decline.”
Two of the district’s most successful elementary schools will be affected. Obama Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary School and Wells APAC Elementary School are slated to be colocated with their feeder schools. Board president Dr. Edward D. Sivak Jr. pointed out that six of the schools on the list earned an “A” rating on the state accountability system this year.
“I don’t mean this to be…cheeky, but I do want to say emphatically that those buildings are not ‘A’ rated. It’s the staff and the children,” Greene replied. “And so there’s absolutely nothing about that building that ensures, insists that those children perform in the way that they do (or) those adults perform the way that they do.”
Board member Mitch McGuffey urged the Superintendent to find creative ways to use the space left from razed buildings.
“It just doesn’t need to be a double loss,” McGuffey said. “It doesn’t need to be a lost school or institution and just a departure with an open field. We have an opportunity here as hard as this is to really benefit some of those areas.”
Greene told the board that the proposal requires more planning including redrawing school lines, prioritizing buildings to be demolished, determining buildings to be repurposed and developing a plan for staff-optimization. He added that there is also a possibility for a reduction in force.
The district will hold four community forums in October and November. The first will be held at Forest Hill High School on October 10, 2023 at 6:00PM.
The final proposal will be presented at the December 5, 2023 school board meeting.