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Hopson recommends two alternative schools for vacant Carver High building

Carver High School remains closed, but its building would avoid sitting empty this fall under a proposal to let two alternative programs use the space in South Memphis.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson presented the recommendation Tuesday evening to the board of Shelby County Schools.

Under the proposal, about 300 students from MLK Transition Academy and Southwest Prep Academy would form a new school called MLK College and Career Academy.

Currently, the alternative schools are located in separate buildings in South Memphis and near downtown. They are scheduled to move into a South Memphis building, but Hopson said that “Carver is a much better building and facility.”

Hopson’s recommendation comes in advance of the district’s long-awaited footprint study, set to come out in September as part of the district’s resizing efforts.

“We’re going to have serious conversations about our footprint starting in September about what the community wants to see,” Hopson said. “Until we have that discussion, I don’t want Carver sitting up there vacant.”

Hopson has said that the district needs to shed as many as two dozen schools — and 27,000 seats — over the next four years.

Check out this Chalkbeat report for more information on the schools that could be most vulnerable for closure in the near future as the district looks for ways to reduce costs and capacity in response to declining student enrollment.

Carver High, originally built for more than a thousand students, was shuttered this year following a school board vote in early June. Its capacity was more than triple its student population, and the building was listed with $3.5 million in deferred maintenance needs.

No board members pushed back on Hopson’s presentation. Miska Clay-Bibbs said it could be a great opportunity to better serve students and make use of the facility while the district figures out next steps for the building. Shante Avant said it would be helpful to inform Carver stakeholders about how the building will be used.

Many alumni and community members opposed closing Carver High this year, and some are exploring legal action against the board to force the district to reopen the neighborhood school.

Though the building would only be used for about 300 students — about a hundred more than attended Carver in its final year — Hopson said the programs likely would use a significant portion of the facility.

The teacher-to-student ratio for alternative schools is less than for traditional schools, so more classroom space would be used. Assistant Superintendent Joris Ray said using Carver would allow the students to have a “real high school experience.”

“The buildings these kids were at didn’t have so much as a gym,” Ray said. “This will definitely boost morale.”

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