From Chalkbeat Tennessee:

The Shelby County school district is planning to close as many as 13 schools in Memphis next year. The district is holding hearings at each of the affected schools over the next few weeks.

After a public hearing at Alcy Elementary School, Reginald Porter, Jr., the district’s chief of staff and a former school board member, talked about what’s coming up next for school closings, about how the district’s responding to a growing charter sector, and about how the district is trying to incorporate community feedback in its plans.

1. These closings are different than the last round:

The closures five years back were strictly schools that were grossly underutilized. The ones over the last 2-3 years are the ones that were recommended by the transition planning commission (which made plans for the merging of the Shelby County district and the Memphis City district). We looked at a list of schools to determine which are underperforming and underutilized – operating at 65% of capacity or below – and determined that for some, with a shrinking economy and shrinking budget, closing or merging would give them a better shot.

According to a district spokeswoman, legacy Memphis City Schools had closed 13 schools since 2009.

2. The district has learned from previous rounds of closings, but is still figuring out some components: 

One thing we’ve learned is, financial savings is not the the reason to close schools. We look at underutilization and actual academic process of students – those are the first two things.

One of the things we’re still learning, how do you staff the now-merged school? Do you take all high-performers (high-performing teachers) and move low-performers out? Or do you try to keep more teachers who were in the school for stability? We’re still trying to figure that out. We want to make sure kids are taken care of. I don’t think there’s a magic bullet or magic formula.

All the schools are different, each have unique issues. We went to close some schools last years, where, if we merged those, there would’ve been gang problems. So when they merged Hamilton and Southside, for instance, one of the things they had to do was put in a bunch of security. Every school is different.

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