Mississippi school district votes to close 13 school buildings after losing nearly 10,000 students

Published 7:19 am Thursday, December 21, 2023

by Julia James, Mississippi Today
December 20, 2023

The board of the Jackson Public School District approved a plan Tuesday night to close 13 school buildings, with one board member dissenting.

In October, JPS district leadership introduced a plan to close 16 school buildings because of declining enrollment in the district. The district has lost around 9,500 students between the 2015-16 and 2023-24 school years, about a third of its population. The district has also previously consolidated schools.

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Earlier this month, district leadership presented an amended plan that removed three elementary schools from this list of proposed consolidations, citing feedback they had received at community meetings.

The following schools are on the updated consolidation plan:

  • Dawson Elementary School
  • G. N. Smith Elementary School
  • Lake Elementary School
  • Lester Elementary School
  • Marshall Elementary School
  • Obama IB Elementary (delayed to 2025)
  • Raines Elementary School
  • Shirley Elementary School
  • Sykes Elementary School
  • Wells APAC Elementary (delayed to 2025)
  • Chastain Middle School
  • Whitten Middle School
  • Wingfield High School

At the meeting Tuesday, several people spoke for and against the proposed closures, including community activists, current teachers and state legislators.

Rep. Chris Bell, D-Jackson, said he supported the consolidation plan because he did not want financial issues to open the district up to state takeover again.

“JPS has risen from the ashes,” he said. “Under the leadership of Dr. Greene, we have risen to a point where individuals have pretty much washed their hands of trying to take over JPS.”

When Superintendent Errick Greene spoke before the vote, he emphasized this decision cannot be delayed or pushed down the road without putting the district in serious jeopardy.

“If we do not take drastic action right now … we could, in effect, create a situation where our system cannot survive because we didn’t take the measures to stop the bleeding,” he said.

Nearly every board member agreed that something needed to be done to decrease costs for the district, but some questioned the way the plan was communicated.

“Everybody knows that we have too many buildings and we have too much real estate and we don’t have any money to take care of it,” said Cynthia Thompson, JPS board member for Ward 6. “It’s not so much that I, or even the community, is upset with the plan, it was just the presentation.”

Thompson motioned to remove Wingfield High School from the list, a measure that failed 3-3. She was also the only board member who did not vote in support of the consolidation plan.

“We face, in Jackson, the challenges that we face because of the state of Mississippi (government),” said Frank Figgers, board member for Ward 3. “People in our communities … should know on whose feet and backs to place this blame that we are in this position.”

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.