Metro school board votes to close three schools in North Nashville

joelton middle
Posted at 6:49 AM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 19:44:09-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education voted to close three schools in the North Nashville area in an effort to save more than $3 million for the district.

The consolidation plan has been in the works for a while and isn’t related to the pandemic.

District 1 Board Member Dr. Sharon Gentry said discussions on how to consolidate schools were happening as far back as 2008, when she first joined the board. Under previous administrations, the program may have been called something different but Dr. Gentry says the same schools were under a microscope then and are again now.

“It’s unfair to hold teachers and building leaders accountable for outcomes without resources,” said Dr. Gentry.

The ReimgainED cluster plan proposal will rezone students from Buena Vista to Jones Paideia Elementary. Students from Robert E. Lillard Elementary, will be split between Alex Green and Cumberland Elementary. At Joelton Middle School, students will now be rezoned with Haynes Middle School. As for The Cohn Learning Center Program, students will return to their zoned high schools.

Dr. Gentry calls it the most comprehensive effort in the 12 years she’s served on the board. By shutting down the schools and consolidating students into larger student bodies, the district could save more than $3 million each year.

With student-based budgeting, the more students under one roof, the more resources they’re offered. For the schools taking on the consolidations, they could see more money funneling into their system to provide for the influx of students. For the students joining these schools, it’s a chance to make the best of resources they may not have otherwise had available to them.

While some agree consolidating could benefit long-term, District 1 candidate Robert Taylor says the timeline is far from realistic. At least without more input from the community.

“Yes, this is a conversation that’s been happening for many years, but the conversation has not always been about consolidating schools. It’s been about providing the resources necessary to have high quality educators in our schools. There are several ways where that can take place, prior to getting to the point where you have to close schools,” said Taylor.

Taylor spoke with NewsChannel 5 shortly before the meeting began and says he does support what the consolidation hopes to accomplish. In conversations with parents and community leaders, he says few if any people knew their school was on the short list for consolidation.

The district made the initial announcement last week, with a vote just days later and while superintendent Dr. Adrienne Battle made it clear there had been several meeting since then, other board members say the vote seemed rushed.

The ReimaginED plan takes effect this coming school year, as board members agreed that COVID-19 accelerated the timeline.They will, however, plan to host more virtual meetings on how to make the best of the buildings they would rather not leave vacant. That includes finding ways to preserve the names of historical figures, who serve as the namesake for schools set to close.

Other already approved changes for the upcoming school year include rezoning a portion of Thomas Edison Elementary into Smith Springs Elementary. Retaining fifth grade at Cole Elementary, while taking away fifth grade for Antioch Middle School. Gra-Mar Middle School will also close and be rezoned into Jere Baxter Middle School.