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Shelby board approves plan to keep students after municipalities break off

Shelby County’s school board proceeded with a controversial plan Monday to keep more than a thousand students and four schools from being absorbed by six municipal districts set to open next school year.

The board voted 5-1 to approve a resolution that would allow the superintendent to lease several buildings to the municipalities. The resolution also allows the administration to begin planning to serve more than 1,000 students who live in Memphis but attend schools in the municipalities.

Board members devised the plan to cushion the financial blow that a separation between six municipalities and the county system would cause. Shelby administrators estimate they would lose at least $52 million if the six municipalities split next year. By holding on to the students, Shelby would also hold on to the per-pupil funding that follows them.

Board member David Pickler voted against the resolution and board member David Reaves abstained from the vote. Pickler, Reaves, and dozens of Germantown residents in attendance Monday argued that the public didn’t have enough time to vet the resolution and express their opinion before the board voted.

Germantown will be most affected by the resolution. While the majority of schools within municipal limits will be handed over to the new districts, four schools in Germantown, including its high school, would remain under Shelby County’s control under the plan.

“This will tear Germantown apart,” said Audrey Grossman, a Germantown resident.  “You’re creating a school without a community and you’re making it less racially and economically diverse.”

The administration argued last week that the majority of students in the Germantown schools actually live in Memphis and unincorporated areas around Germantown. It would cause less disruption to retain control over those schools, they said.

Dorsey Hopson, Shelby’s superintendent, said Monday he would allow Germantown students to continue attending the schools and that the district would invest more than $9 million in capitol improvements to the high school.

“We’ll continue to listen to Germantown leaders if they have different points of view,” Hopson said.

But Germantown residents weren’t pleased. After hissing and booing at the superintendent and the board, the residents — mostly clad in red — left the meeting in a huff as soon as the vote was tallied.

“We’re going to have successful municipal schools however they’re composed,” said Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy.