(WMC-TV) – The commission overseeing the merger of Memphis Shelby County school districts is considering closing 21 schools.
The Transition Planning Committee doesn't have a list of specific schools, but the group is recommending that 21 be closed down completely.
In order to increase building capacity and save about $20 million, the TPC's communication committee may have more work to do with a logistics committee recommending school closures.
"It's always a hard decision when you think about school closures," said Barbara Prescott, of the TPC.
The TPC logistics committee suggests shutting down 21 under-utilized schools be shut down. The list includes 10 elementary, 7 middle and 4 high schools across Northwest and Southwest Memphis.
The recommendation is that they combine with other nearby schools to lessen the disruption as much as possible.
"Our guiding principle is save where we can, spend on what we need, which is the educational program," said Prescott.
Prescott said the group must take into consideration the condition of the buildings, the academic programs and the feeder systems.
However, school board member Kenneth Whalum said the TPC has overstepped its bounds by merely suggesting closing schools.
"The closing of schools has nothing to do with writing a plan for merger," he said. "The Transition Planning Commission shouldn't be dealing with policy matters like closing schools. That's a school board policy function."
Ultimately it is the school board that decides whether to close schools, but Prescott said the TPC relies on staffing formulas, financial data and school footprints to make adequate informed plans.
"We feel bound to look at every possibility in the district so that in 2013 when we start that we will have an outstanding program for all children and that we'll be able to run effectively and efficiently," she said.
The logistics committee also suggests the system could even produce some revenue by selling the closed school buildings.
The full TPC will vote on the matter in a few weeks.