Days after charter operator YES Prep backed out of its plan to begin managing a struggling Memphis school this August, leaders with Shelby County Schools announced Monday they will close the school and move all students to another school about four miles away.
Superintendent Dorsey Hopson told a sparsely attended crowd at Airways Middle School that all students will be moved to Sherwood Middle School next school year in the wake of YES Prep’s sudden withdrawal five months before the Houston, Texas-based organization was to begin overseeing the school.
“[YES Prep’s departure] was really a surprise for the district,” Hopson told the audience.
He and other school officials assured parents and other family members that their children will receive a better education at Sherwood, a school that is receiving special interventions as part of the district’s Innovation Zone.
“Once you get in the iZone, you get a whole extra set of support,” Hopson said.
Because Airways is on the priority list of schools academically ranked in the state’s bottom 5 percent, the south Memphis school was being moved to the state’s Achievement School District (ASD), which had authorized YES Prep to gradually begin taking over grades, beginning with the sixth-grade class this fall. Last week, however, YES Prep officials informed the ASD that it was pulling out as the school’s charter operator.
Leaders at YES Prep, a nationally regarded charter management organization, cited the difficulty of boosting enrollment at the school due to a lack of community support and increasing hostility toward the ASD, as well as Hopson’s announcement earlier this year that the district no longer would participate in co-locations – a model that YES Prep is built on – in which two schools operate in the same building, with one school growing and the other shrinking until the takeover is complete.
Monday’s community forum lasted just under an hour, with questions and concerns expressed by three people in attendance.
While the decision to close Airways did not seem to surprise parents at the meeting, logistical concerns were raised. One parent asked how she will be able to commute to Sherwood, which is a five-minute drive from the school, pointing out that many parents in her low-income community don’t have access to transportation.
Administrators said they will continue closing schools with dismal academic results – and moving students to nearby schools – in part to address the looming threat of more school takeovers by the ASD.
City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert, who once represented the Airways community as a school board member, said schools in Memphis have been neglected for too long.
“These citizens deserve respect, common courtesy and decency to be a part of what’s going on in schools,” Halbert said. “We need to be looking out for the best interest of their children.”
Contact Daarel Burnette II at firstname.lastname@example.org or (901) 260-3705.
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