Parents hear Vision 2020 plans for first time
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JACKSON, Tenn. — In a standing room only meeting Monday night, representatives from Kimley-Horn’s consulting team told parents schools are not being used to their full potential, and they have a plan to change that. The future plans for the Jackson-Madison County School System became a little clearer for hundreds of parents and teachers present for the first “Vision 2020” meeting this fall. “What the school system is trying to instill is parent involvement and engagement, and we have parents who are obviously concerned about what’s going to happen and where their student is going to go to school,” Jackson-Madison County kindergarten teacher Jeff Davis said. The current proposals would close at least three elementary schools, including Nova, Malesus and Beech Bluff. “I worry about the building. What are they going to do with that building? We hate to just see it sit,” Beech Bluff parent and former student Crystal Gonzales said. “Where are our kids going to be going and how long will they have to be on a bus wherever they have to go?” West Middle School also could be shut down. Some schools have the possibility of being re-purposed for other grade levels, such as the historic Jackson Central-Merry High School being turned into an elementary school. “The plans actually sound really good,” said Stephanie Graham, a JCM graduate. “I was passionate and really wanted to hear about JCM and see what the future was. The options are good, and I’ll be back to the other meetings.” Some said re-purposing is not the answer. “I think it’s a step back,” said Andre Darnell, who has started a petition to not shut down JCM. “I didn’t agree with the plan written out, if it was closed and ends all the history in the community.” Parents said the argument of historical significance could be made for each of the schools that could stay locked up for good. “I went to Beech Bluff. My father, sister and grandfather went to Beech Bluff, and we have memories,” Gonzales said. Advisers presented two plans as options for consolidating elementary and middle schools and two other plans for high schools. Consultants said just more than 60 percent of space is currently being used in the school system and that these plans would allow for more than 90 percent of the space to be used.