Memphis school leaders continue discussion over proposed district overhaul

It's almost dejavu, Memphis school leaders and board members discussing the possible closing and merging of schools to save money. Same thing happened last year when 10 schools merged to make five. This time though, board member Wanda Halbert says the plan goes way beyond that, "We're now talking about changing the dynamics of educational services that we're providing to our children in Memphis City Schools." Monday night school leaders like Halbert had their first chance to quiz those who came up with the plan and to ask staffers if the plan could even work, "We're gonna talk about eliminating transportation routes, tearing down school buildings, or adding new school buildings." Under the plan, eight schools could closed. Some are underutilized, others are overcrowded. Pictures show that some of the schools need major repairs from new ceilings to new walls and more. Superintendent Carol Johnson says board members have quite a job ahead of them, "What they need to do immediately, what they need to do and make decisions about for '06 and '07 and whether they have the resources to actually do it." Some board members are worried about time...Patrice Robinson even made a call to cancel community meetings about the plan, saying she's not ready to answer to angry parents. But board members rejected her request and the meetings will go on.

Previous story with list of proposed school closings:

Thursday a consulting firm commissioned by the Memphis School Board presented a five year master plan. The plan is titled "Achieving the Vision."

It's a vision to cut building maintenance costs, transportation costs and make the same curriculum available to all students.

To achieve that vision, the proposed plan calls for a drastic overhaul of the district.

The study recommends closing eight schools at the end of this academic year.

The list includes Denver Elementary.  Students there would be evenly distributed among Brookmeade, Georgian Hills, and Frayser Elementaries.

Caldwell Elementary's students would head to Guthrie and Downtown Elementary Schools.

Hollywood Elementary's students would end up at Shannon, Springdale and Vollentine Elementaries.

Lauderdale Elementary would also close with students absorbed by LaRose, Cummings, Orleans, and A.B. Hill Elementary schools.

Manor Lake's students would head to Fairley, Lakeview, and Westhaven Elementaries.

Students at Balmoral Elementary would be spread out between Fox Meadows, Oak Forest, and Ridgeway.

Macon Elementary's students would go to either Wells Station or Berclair Elementary, while Longview Middle School students would go to Southside Middle.

The master plan also recommends Coro Lake, White's Chapel, Graves, Shady Grove, and Orleans Elementary be placed on a Watch list.

That means those schools would close within three years if attendance doesn't go up.

In addition to the closures, the proposal recommends converting seven existing schools.

Westside High School would become Westside Middle school.  Students from Westside High would go Frayser High school.

The Southside High building would become Southside Middle School.  Southside High students would be evenly distributed among Hamilton and Carver High Schools.

Treadwell High School would also convert to a middle school.  Treadwell High's students would attend Kingsbury High.

Lester Elementary would covert to Lester Middle School.  Lester Elementary's students would attend the new Binghampton Elementary.

Finally, Ford Road, Graceland and Douglass Elementaries would enroll students from Kindergarden through eighth grade.

The Master Plan also calls for construction of five new schools and major renovations to a dozen facilities.

Brookmeade ES, Egypt ES, Chickasaw MS, Fairview MS, Georgian Hills MS, Hickory Ridge MS, Humes MS, Douglass K-8, Graceland K-8, Trezevant HS,  White Station HS, and Wooddale HS would get more than a million dollars worth of repairs.

Cypress MS, Richland ES, Lakeview ES, Oak Forest ES, and Treadwell MS would get facelifts under a million dollars.

The master plan took a team of 40 architects and inspectors 10 months to complete and a cost of $800,000.

If the board adopts the plan, the district would spend $500 million over five years.  Initial savings from the plan is projected at $45 million.