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Jackson Public School Board of Trustees Votes to Close or Consolidate 13 Schools

Cynthia Thompson speaking from a desk
Ward 5 board member Cynthia Thompson called for an amendment to remove Wingfield from the school closure list before the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees voted on the proposed optimization plan. Her amendment failed in a 3-3 vote during the Dec. 19, 2023, board meeting. Screenshot courtesy JPS livestream

Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees approved an amended school-optimization plan that will close or consolidate 13 schools. The board voted 5-1 to accept JPS Superintendent Errick Greene’s proposal during its Dec. 19 meeting. Greene introduced the amended plan to the board at a Dec. 5 school board meeting.

The plan differs from the initial proposal the superintendent made to the board in October that called for 16 schools to be closed. The district removed Clausell Elementary School, Green Elementary School, Oak Forest Elementary and Key Elementary School from the final closure list and added Marshall Elementary. Obama Magnet IB and Wells Academic and Performing Arts are still scheduled to be consolidated with their middle school feeder schools; however, the board-approved plan will delay that move until 2025 while renovations are completed at the Bailey APAC campus. 

The vote follows months of deliberations and community meetings. Several citizens spoke during the public comments section of the meeting, most urging the board to reconsider closing schools, specifically Wingfield High School. Wingfield is the only high school slated to close.

“Something has to be done, and we know that, but this right here, I don’t feel is the right decision,” Wingfield head football coach Andrew Watson said addressing the board. “This decision affects more than just the community. It affects the students. It affects voters. It affects careers. And it’s going to change lives.”

Coach Andrew Watson speaking at a mic as seated people watch on
Wingfield head football coach Andrew Watson spoke during the public comments section of the December 19, 2023 JPS school board meeting. He asked board members to not close the school. Screenshot courtesy JPS livestream

Greene said during the meeting that community feedback had been an important part of the process, and he addressed several concerns such as school safety, loss of belonging and the fate of staff. He told the board that the district intends to invest the saved revenue not only into needed facility repairs and renovations but also into stable staffing, expanded academic offerings, expanded arts programs, athletic salary raises and facilities upgrades. 

“I implore you board members to vote yes on this optimization plan and set us up for greater success in the future,” Greene told the board. “We show what we can do with one hand tied behind our back and standing on one foot is time to remove some of these barriers and position us to do even greater work. That’s my plea.”

Before the vote, Ward 5 school board member Cynthia Thompson called for an amendment to remove Wingfield from the closure list but the amendment failed in a 3-3 vote. Thompson, who was in tears as the meeting concluded, was the lone opposer in the final decision.

“I have grappled with this,” an emotional Thompson told the board before the vote. “My heart has been heavy. It has been torn into pieces, and basically, I feel like the handwriting has been on the wall for a long time. I guess I want to say I understand we have to do something. I don’t know if this was the right way that this something was done.”

Graphic listing the proposed changes to the JPS Feeder Patterns
The optimization plan calls for the closure or consolidation of 13 schools. Graphic courtesy JPS

 Greene said in the October meeting that the closures are necessary because of the district’s declining enrollment, staff shortages and the cost to repair aging buildings. JPS lost about a third of its population between the 2015-2016 and 2023-2024 school years. The district previously consolidated several schools. This school year, Brinkley Middle School’s seventh and eighth grades were merged with Lanier High School, JPS’ only current 7-12 grade school. Greene reiterated those points comparing the decision to that of a diabetic facing amputation.

“While ours is not the same, we do happen to be in a situation where if we do not take drastic action right now, not tomorrow, not next year, not in a couple of years, (but) right now that we could in effect, create a situation where our system cannot survive because we didn’t take the measures to stop the bleeding,” Greene told the board.

Board President Ed Sivak had expressed concern in a previous meeting over the large number of buildings that the district will leave vacant. Greene addressed plans for the district’s intention to launch a Facilities Advisory Committee. 

“As of this afternoon, we had about 15 people, largely recommendations from your board members, who had committed to serving on that committee,” Greene said during the meeting. “In addition, we have secured private funding for supporting a consultant to help us manage the process, to staff the advisory committee, to help field some of the calls and interest in specific buildings or development in general with the school district. Someone who’s worked in urban development both here and in other larger markets. So we’re excited about having that individual already identified.”

Sivak urged the board to vote in favor of the plan.

“I’m going to ask you to support this recommendation. We have asked Dr. Green to be our superintendent. And I think we need that,” Sivak said to his fellow board members. “And I think because of that we need to give him the resources, his team the resources to move forward.”

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