Two Memphis schools are combining into one kindergarten through eighth-grade school next year.
Manor Lake Elementary School will close and students will be assigned to Geeter Middle School, which is about a half-mile away. The name of the new school will be Geeter K-8.
The decision from the Shelby County Schools board Tuesday came after a community group charged with overseeing a group of low-performing Whitehaven schools proposed the consolidation to prevent an outright closure that would have scattered the elementary students.
That proposal was opposed by elementary school parents who were worried about the influence of older students in the building. School leaders assured them at a meeting last month that the children would be housed on separate floors.
A few parents spoke at the meeting against the merger.
“That’s not acceptable,” said Laura Ross. “Our area is dying and you’re not helping us.”
Both schools held far fewer students than their capacity and the district considered Manor Lake’s building in poor condition. Combined, the K-8 school could have about 600 students. The decision means that Manor Lake Elementary would be the district’s 22nd school closure since 2012.
The schools are slated to enter the district’s Whitehaven Empowerment Zone, a cluster of four low-performing neighborhood schools that is adding five more next year. The Empowerment Zone is a district program that seeks to increase collaboration across schools and grade levels, and offers extra support for teachers and administrators. It is neighborhood specific to Whitehaven and a less expensive turnaround model for schools in danger of appearing on the state’s “priority list” of lowest performing schools.
Part of that transition to the Empowerment Zone means that teachers will have to re-apply for their jobs. Teachers with evaluation scores below a 3 on the district’s five-point scale will be reassigned to other schools.
Geeter Middle School was one of the first in the district’s Innovation Zone, a program that adds an extra hour to the school day and offers support services for students, most of whom live in poverty. Schools in the Innovation Zone — also known as the iZone — are located all over the city and cost about $600,000 extra to operate per school per year. Unlike Empowerment zones, schools in the iZone are already on the state’s list of lowest performing schools.
When Geeter switches to the district’s Empowerment Zone, the middle school will be the first to leave the iZone to go into a different district program meant to raise student test scores.