Shelby County Schools Eye Crosstown

By: Bill Dries
This article originally appeared in The Memphis Daily News Photo Above: Andrew J. Breig

Shelby County Schools wants to open a high school at Crosstown Concourse. SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson confirmed the school district’s interest Wednesday, Nov. 18. 

“We’ve spoken with some of the local funders about putting together some plan to ensure that there are some high-quality options there,” Hopson said. “There are a number of different ways that we’re thinking about it. But absolutely we would love to be a part of it.”   

The term “high-quality” could mean an optional school or citywide school with open attendance. Crosstown Concourse co-leader Todd Richardson told The Daily News his project is willing to work with Shelby County Schools and has had “lots of conversations” about possible tenants for the school space. 

“We’re still at the very beginning stages to determine the best route for this unique opportunity,” he said by email. 

The preliminary talks include the idea of a Crosstown High School as part of a feeder pattern out of the Maxine Smith STEAM Academy, a middle school with a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics emphasis. Christian Brothers University works with STEAM Academy and Middle College High School, which is housed in the same building at 750 East Parkway S. CBU also is a partner in Crosstown Concourse and likely would play a significant role in plans for a high school at Crosstown, according to Richardson. 

SCS board member Kevin Woods said Crosstown is one option for the system. “The board is looking at what’s going to be the feeder pattern for the students at STEAM,” Woods said. “We would consider Crosstown one of many options that we are considering as a feeder pattern for STEAM.” 

Woods went on to say that SCS is evaluating numerous options in an effort to strengthen existing schools. “But also we have an opportunity to see what’s possible at the Crosstown location as well,” he said. “If that opportunity presents itself for us to create a high-performing option for our community, then we think everybody would be better served by it.” 

Richardson said Crosstown’s founders “always envisioned” a ninth- through 12th-grade high school of 450 students “that would take advantage of the arts resources prevalent in Midtown and the sciences resources abundant in the Medical District.”

Gestalt Community Schools was an original partner in the Crosstown redevelopment, but the charter school operator announced last month it was pulling out of the project. “We have planned for a high school from the beginning of design,” he added. “We've dedicated a space in the building and have addressed all related regulations and codes in the shell and core to make it possible.” 

Meanwhile, Hopson told a group of 150 educators and civic leaders Wednesday that he hopes to secure private funding and expertise from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to plot a detailed three- to five-year long-range financial plan for the school system. 

“What that means is looking at our potential charter growth, looking at potential (Achievement School District) growth and just making sure that we are aligned for long-term sustainability,” Hopson said Tuesday, Nov. 18, after an education forum at the Salvation Army Kroc Center hosted by the Lipscomb-Pitts Breakfast Club. 

Shelby County Schools faces an estimated $72 million gap between projected expenses and projected revenue as it begins planning for the next budget year. 

“There’s really not a whole lot left to cut,” Hopson said. “This is the first year where there don’t appear to be options that don’t directly affect classrooms. There’s always discussion about closing schools and what savings that may net, and we’ll look at that. But if we closed every school that was less than 60 percent occupied, then that might net somewhere around $9 million, which isn’t academically the right thing to do.”    

Bill Dries is a reporter at the Memphis Daily News
Posted by Josh Colfer at 9:41 AM

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