The most recent proposal for facilities in the coming school year was unveiled at Monday night’s BOE/community meeting and includes four main points. The reason for this plan say school officials is to begin a long-term process to address the imbalance of classrooms in the county that has led to overcrowding on the West side and to also cut costs in the short-term.
The four points are:
1. Mothball the current South Jackson Elementary School and relocate it to the current Kings Bridge Middle School facility. Superintendent John Green said Monday night that because of its age, the current SJES has the system’s “worst facility issues” in addition to some serious traffic concerns. By closing that facility, the system would save money from having one less school facility to operate with its overhead, such as administrative staffing, lunchroom costs and transportation costs. Green said that no long term plans for that facility had been decided, but that it might later be turned into a community center for the area or some other use. He said that there had already been discussion about relocating playground equipment and other items to the current Kings Bridge facility to make it into an elementary school.
2. Consolidate current KBMS 6th and 7th Grades into East Jackson Middle School. Both the current KBMS and EJMS are relatively close together geographically and neither one is being fully utilized. Consolidating the two schools would make more use of the EJMS facility.
3. Move 8th Graders from KBMS and EJMS into an unused part of East Jackson Comprehensive High School. This is one of the most controversial parts of the plan as some parents voiced opposition Monday night to having 8th Graders in a facility with older students. Green said that no specific plan had been drafted of how to accommodate 8th Graders, but that there we “many models” of doing that. By adding the 8th Grade to the EJCHS facility, it would make use of empty classrooms in that facility. EJCHS has the most unused space in the system with only half of its capacity being used.
4. Build a wing onto West Jackson Intermediate School to relieve overcrowding on the West side. Although there is overcrowding at the West Jackson Middle School facility, that building has already had one addition in the past. Green said Monday night that the facility was not designed to accommodate another wing; doing that he said would overload the school’s core, such as the lunchroom and other common use areas. A wing at WJIS would also give the county a way to relieve the middle school by moving the 6th Grade into that area from the overcrowded WJMS. Longer term, the wing could absorb growth in the lower grades as well.