Board members worry about displaced students

Several Memphis City School Board members shared their concerns at a meeting Thursday about a number of students who will be displaced by the closing of one public housing project.

Renovations are already underway at Lamar Terrace. The mounds of dirt where the complex once stood will become University Place.

But 487 families living in Dixie Homes will need to relocate sometime this year, which could place a strain on some of Memphis' already over crowded schools.

"We have schools in Hickory Hill, Cordova, and in other parts of the community that are very overcrowded already," said school board member Deni Hirsch. "If those students get displaced, and end up with vouchers into those areas, we are already above capacity. What is that going to mean for us?"

Hirsch is the school board representative for the most overcrowded school in the district, Ross Elementary. Ross has a capacity of 926, but 1,183 students attend the school. The school is forced to used portables.

"We have no control over where people move when they're displaced," Hirsch said. "What we're asking for is to at least have a seat at the table."

Hirsch was speaking of seat at the table with the City of Memphis, as it makes changes to neighborhoods. School Board President Sara Lewis said the city is sharing information with the district, and that everyone is working to do what's best for students.

"We don't want to have children displaced, or parents chose to move from the inner city where they're at a school," Lewis said. "We don't want that and the city doesn't want that either."

Regardless of where families move, the district is required by federal mandate to accommodate any student.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded 285 Section 8 vouchers to the Memphis Housing Authority to help relocate Dixie Homes residents. Board members said it would be better if families were asked to relocate during the summer, so the district could measure any influx to its schools, and to keep students class time from being disrupted.