Friday, May 27, 2011

TOP STORY >> Shutdown of school still not a done deal

Leader staff writer

Is Jacksonville Elementary School really closing its doors for good on June 9?




The Pulaski County School Board voted earlier this year to close it to save about $800,000 in annual costs and bus its approximate 300 students to other schools in Jacksonville.

But the teachers’ union has filed a grievance to stop the closing. Attorney John Walker has filed a lawsuit to stop the closing,. Then there are all the desegregation concerns listed in U.S. District Judge Brian Miller’s recent ruling that could affect the decision.

Board member Gloria Lawrence tried to get the board to discuss the closing at its meeting Wednesday night, but after three hours of financial-distress discussion and agreeing to appeal Judge Miller’s decision, no one else was in the mood to discuss it, yet some board members did get a few words in.

Lawrence wanted to see a breakdown on how the district is really saving $800,000. No teacher positions will be cut in the move, plus more buses and gas will be used to transport the students to other schools, she said.

Lawrence also didn’t like the idea of the school closing before the planned replacement school is built.

Board president Bill Vasquez said the closing is part of next year’s budget plans that have been approved by the state. “If you want to keep the school open, you’ll have to find another $1 million in cuts,” he said.

Lawrence said she and others had already found $900,000 worth of cuts.

“But that was before the judge cut off $17 to $20 million in desegregation funding,” Vasquez said.

Lawrence said a number of teachers and parents were concerned about the closing.

Vasquez, who represents that area, said he had not heard one bad comment about the closing.

“Everyone is pleased and excited. Children will no longer have to walk through a bad neighborhood to get to school. They will be bused to other schools and students and parents are excited about that,” he said, adding none of the other schools are any further than the local Walmart.

He added that Jacksonville has way too many elementary schools and most are half-empty, yet the district is having to buy and move at least one portable building to Murrell Taylor Elementary to deal with the influx of students who will come from a closed Jacksonville Elementary.

The issue should be on the agenda for the district’s June 14 meeting.