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Memphis delays report — again — that will guide school closures for next 5 years

Proponents of keeping Carver High School open show their support during a school board meeting last spring. The school was closed a few months later.
Proponents of keeping Carver High School open show their support during a school board meeting last spring. The school was closed a few months later.
Caroline Bauman

For a second time, Shelby County Schools has missed its own deadline for releasing a long-anticipated study designed to help guide decisions about Memphis school closures during the next five years.

A yearlong “footprint analysis” originally was targeted for release in September, then October. On Monday, the last day of October, a district spokeswoman said the release has been delayed again to get additional feedback from employees and the community about what makes a high-quality school — information that is to be used in conjunction with the report. She did not indicate a new release date.

The analysis will serve as a status report on building conditions and enrollment in Tennessee’s largest school system. While it won’t include recommendations, it’s expected to provide a basis for recommendations about future closures. Superintendent Dorsey Hopson has said the district, which has shuttered some 20 schools since 2012, needs to downsize by up to 24 more over the next five years to address the widening gap between student enrollment and the number available seats.

Find more of our coverage on Memphis school closures here.

In making recommendations, district leaders say they’ll also consider feedback from recent community meetings exploring the future of Memphis schools. (Employees are invited to weigh in at 1 p.m. Thursday during a meeting at the district’s central office.)

The delay also compresses the timeframe for determining the next round of school closure decisions. In recent years, recommendations have typically been presented in February or March for closing schools at the end of the school year, but this year’s recommendations happened in April in the midst of budget talks about an $86 million shortfall.

School leaders have said they want to shift the timeline so talks about school closures don’t coincide with budget season, which usually happens in the spring but next year is being stepped up to begin in January.

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