Memphis is home to the largest number of charter schools in Tennessee, and eight more are expected to open in the city during the 2019-2020 school year. Another five Memphis charter schools will not reopen for the coming academic year.
Just one new traditional district-run school and University Middle School, which is a “contract” school run by the University of Memphis, will open their doors.
The openings and closings will bring the total number of Memphis charter schools to 82 — with Shelby County Schools overseeing 57 and the state-run Achievement School District overseeing 25 more. This is the second consecutive year in which more charter schools than traditional district schools have shuttered.
New Day Schools, which will convert schools formerly under the private Jubilee Catholic Schools network, is among the city’s new charter organizations. With six schools, it will be the largest new charter network launch in Memphis history.
On the list of closures this year is Gateway University Charter School, which was ordered to shut down after a Chalkbeat investigation exposed administrative misconduct at the Memphis charter high school.
Below is a complete list of the Memphis school closures and openings Chalkbeat compiled:
Aster College Prep will open this school year to fifth graders. Although the school board approved the initial application, it denied Aster’s request to add a sixth-grade class this year. The founder and head of the school, Teshanda Middleton, last year completed a fellowship program for new school leaders through a national nonprofit, Building Excellent Schools.
Memphis Merit Academy is a college preparatory school opening in August to students in kindergarten and first grade. Like at Aster College Prep, Merit Academy’s school leader, Lekeena Booker, is a graduate of the Building Excellent Schools fellowship program. The nonprofit assisted in the founding of the school, according to the school’s website.
University Middle School will open to sixth graders this fall. The school board approved a request for University Middle to use space in East High School for its first year. The University of Memphis middle school is a “contract” school, which is different from the publicly funded but privately managed charter schools in the district. Contract schools have more flexibility in enrollment, which allows the university to reserve a third of the seats for children of university faculty and staff. It is also a teaching lab school where aspiring teachers at the university will work alongside certified teachers.
New Day Schools, a new charter school network led by Christian Brothers University President John Smarrelli is opening six new schools in buildings that formerly operated under the now-defunct Jubilee Catholic Schools network, which oversaw nine schools. Although the charter school group originally requested to open nine schools, six will open in Berclair, Binghampton, Frayser, Hickory Hill, Midtown, and Orange Mound.
Parkway Village Elementary School will open in January 2020. The new Shelby County Schools district school, located at the intersection of Goodlett and Knight roads, was originally slated to open in early 2018 as part of the school board’s plan to spend $1.5 million to rebuild both Goodlett and Alcy elementary schools. Construction is still underway on the Alcy site.
Gateway University High School will not reopen this school year. The Shelby County Schools board voted to close it in January, following a Chalkbeat investigation that showed the charter school’s administrators falsified grades, improperly employed uncertified teachers, and awarded credits for a geometry class that did not exist. The Tennessee Board of Education subsequently upheld the decision to shutter Gateway University.
City University Boys Preparatory closed in May after the state board of education upheld the local school board’s decision to shut the school. “The school has been unable to demonstrate sufficient progress toward its academic goals set forth in the charter application and agreement over the course of its ten-year charter term,” the state board wrote in its recommendation.
Three additional charter schools, all run by Willie Herenton — a former Memphis schools superintendent and mayor and current Memphis mayoral candidate — will not reopen their doors this August due to low performance, the school board decided. The schools are:
- Du Bois Elementary School of Arts Technology
- Du Bois Middle School of Arts Technology
- Du Bois Middle School of Leadership Public Policy
Hamilton Elementary School will fold into the adjacent Hamilton Middle to create a K-8 school. The move will save the district $3.3 million in scheduled maintenance costs for the 55-year-old elementary school building. The decision is also expected also boost enrollment at the middle school campus to 86 percent of its capacity.
Correction: July 25, 2019: This story has been corrected to show that 10 schools are opening this school year, including the University of Memphis middle school. A previous version said nine schools would open.