Jackson County School System superintendent April Howard unveiled a reconfiguration plan to convert West Jackson Primary School into a second middle school to serve western Jackson County.
The plan, shared by Howard at a West Jackson school performance celebration Thursday at Jackson County Comprehensive School (JCCHS), would consolidate grades PreK-5 under one roof at West Jackson Intermediate School (WJIS) in 2015-2016, allowing time to remodel West Jackson Primary School (WJPS) into a middle school for the 2016-2017 school year.
“The (school) district has to submit a facilities plan to the state and we have to be prepared to move forward and that’s the direction that we’re taking,” Howard said.
West Jackson Intermediate School will have room to house PreK-5 in 2015-2016 following the completion of a $5.7 million, 25-classroom addition that began in May. The system will then use the 2015-2016 school year to convert WJPS for grades 6-8. Howard said that WJPS already has several components needed for middle school.
“That school has the land space,” she said. “It has a great gym. It has beautiful fields, and it can be converted into a middle school relatively easily. But we’ll have to do some classroom additions and we’ll have to do some modifications for a band room and all of the other middle school requirements.”
The school system surveyed the community earlier this year regarding the West Jackson reconfiguration plans. Of the 219 citizens who responded, converting WJPS into a middle school was the most popular choice.
Classroom overcrowding has been an issue on the west side of Jackson County and the Jackson County Board of Education anticipates the enrollment at West Jackson Middle School (WJMS) to approach 1,200 by 2016-2017 unless a new middle school is added. The capacity at WJMS is 755.
Howard said adding the new middle school in two years would allow each middle school to house approximately 600 students.
“By the time we split those schools, I really think you’ll probably have 600 kids per school,” she said. “That’s a reasonable number to be able to provide programs offerings. We would not want to split if we were looking at two schools of 300.”
The move would also create a feeder pattern for the Braselton area with the new middle school serving the consolidated PreK-5 elementary school.
More changes could be in store for the west side of the county over the next few years. The school board has set aside about 150 acres for a third county high school campus when needed. The construction of a full-scale high school would be contingent on the passage of ESPLOST, according to Howard. If ESPLOST passes, construction of a new high school could begin as soon as 2017-2018.
EAST SIDE CONFIGURATION
Monday, Howard reviewed the configuration of schools on the east side of the county following a year of major shifts with the consolidation of East Jackson and Kings Bridge middle schools and relocation of South Jackson Elementary School students to the Kings Bridge facility.
Based on a population growth rate of three percent, South Jackson students could remain at Kings Bridge until 2023 before reaching capacity.
There’s also plenty of room for eighth graders to remain housed at East Jackson Comprehensive High School — which has a capacity of 1, 850 — until at least 2023 if that’s what the system chooses to do. Eighth graders moved to the EJCHS campus when East Jackson and Kings Bridge middle schools merged. But there’s also the possibility of an EJMS addition if eighth graders were to ever move back to that facility.
As for the old South Jackson Elementary School building, which is currently unused, the school system hopes that perhaps a community organization — such as a church — may want to utilize that space.
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