MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Parents are getting a chance to voice their feelings about possible school closings in several Memphis neighborhoods. The Transition Planning Committee recommended closing at least six schools before the Memphis City and Shelby County schools merge in 2013.
Unified School Board members are talking about several ways to save money as they face at least a $150 million deficit. The first option up for discussion is to close schools that have low student attendance, an idea that has many parents angry.
LaQuinton Golden's children go to Norris Elementary School in south Memphis. He went there as a child. He said he can't imagine his school closing, let alone half a dozen more in southwest and north Memphis.
"It's risking our children's education over saving a dollar, because that's all it is," he said.
Norris and Orleans Elementary Schools are on the chopping list. Unified School Board members are split about those recommendations.
"This notion that a school building is underutilized is justification for shutting the building down, thereby guaranteeing death of a neighborhood, is damnable," said school board member Kenneth Whalum, Jr. "Let's bring life instead of bringing blight; let's enhance the school buildings."
Fellow board member David Pickler countered, "We're not trying to further damage a weakened neighborhood, but on the other hand we've got some tough choices we have to make in terms of the dollars we have."
School board members say in the upcoming months they want the public's feedback about the closings. If the board determines the schools will close there is no money for new buildings.
Nothing will be final until everyone weighs in and the school board votes, but the clock is ticking. The board has to approve a budget by February.