JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – On Thursday, October 26, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) offered federal help to the Jackson Public Schools (JPS) Board of Trustees in order to help with repurposing school buildings considered for closure.
The congressman is concerned that the buildings left vacant would become eye sores overtime.
“If the current buildings considered for closure are in good shape, then I believe they can be repurposed with a coordinated strategy by the Jackson Public Schools District Board of Trustees,” said Thompson.
The JPS Board of Trustees is considering closing or consolidating 16 schools in the district.
In early October, Superintendent Dr. Errick Greene said the proposed closures are not performance-based but are due to a decline in enrollment, facility infrastructure issues and staffing issues.
The superintendent said JPS has lost more than 9,500 students since the 2015-16 school year, and there are more than 400 staffing vacancies. He added that closing or consolidating those schools could save more than $17 million per year and more than $174 million in renovation costs.
Thompson said communities in other parts of the country have turned closed school buildings into community centers, health and wellness centers, and senior living facilities.
“I urge the Jackson Public Schools District Board of Trustees to take this opportunity to repurpose the use of the proposed school buildings that will close. This is a chance for the Jackson Public Schools District Board of Trustees to set a new example for school boards that may consider closing school buildings,” said Thompson.
The recommendations on closures, facility investments and repurposing will be finalized by December 5, 2023.
WJTV 12 News reached out to JPS about Thompson’s plan, and the district released the following statement.
The Jackson Public School District (JPSD) is honored to collaborate with Congressman Thompson to explore innovative ways to repurpose vacant school buildings in Jackson. It is our desire that these buildings continue to meet the needs of the community, i.e., housing, educational programming, and healthcare needs.
Although closing and consolidating schools based on declining enrollment (optimization) can be challenging and troubling, the administration is committed to providing scholars in JPSD with a quality and compelling educational experience. The District has demonstrated this commitment by dramatically improving its academic rating over the past 5 years, from an F rating to just one point from a B rating.
We are grateful for the pledge of support in repurposing buildings for the benefit of our scholars, their families and communities. The administration will continue to engage stakeholders in prioritizing the needs and identifying potential support entities to operate in available facilities, ultimately creating a better Jackson community.Jackson Public School District