Shelby County government passes resolution against charter school move

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - There are new questions and concerns from Shelby County Schools leaders about a charter school approved in Memphis that now plans to open in Bartlett. Shelby County Commissioners have now weighed in on the issue.

Commissioners approved a resolution Monday night asking that Gateway University Charter School postpone its opening and also asking that the Tennessee Department of Education step in and stop the school from opening. The controversy all centers around the apparent relocation of the school.
 
"The logistics of the Bartlett school certainly will raise some questions to deal with kids in Memphis," SCS Board Chair Chris Caldwell said.
 
Caldwell said the developments, with respect to the location change, are a sign state charter school laws are too loose and give the schools too much autonomy.
 
SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson said the district isn't exactly pleased with the new location of the school.
 
"We're certainly keeping a close eye on that," Hopson said.
 
Hopson said the board approved Gateway University's operation for opening in the county last year and the charter school said on its application that it wanted to be in the Downtown Memphis area. He said Gateway University since notified the district, saying it couldn't find a place and would be locating instead to Bartlett on Stage Road.
 
Hopson told WMC Action News 5 that the state has told the district there's nothing in state law to stop the relocation, yet the district has its own fears.
 
"Is that a red flag in terms of operations, that is a school under the Shelby County umbrella," Hopson said,  "We want to make sure if they're serving Shelby County Schools kids that the parents get what they bargained for."
 
For their part – Gateway University's website states it is targeted toward high school students with a focus on computer science and information technology. The website also still indicates that the school will be located in Downtown Memphis.

The school's Facebook page shows a recent open house with parents and students and states classes will start August 7th, but there is no mention on the Facebook page of the location change.

WMC Action News 5 called Gateway University to inquire about the logistics, and the person who spoke with us said it was not their focus right now and was not a priority. That person then hung up.

Because Gateway University would be opening within the Bartlett City Schools district, a city school spokesperson said that school district is also seeking clarification about the "implications it could have statewide."

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