J.B. Young parents unhappy with plan to close neighborhood school

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Davenport administrators say a 'gut-wrenching' decision is looming over whether or not to close J.B. Young School.

On Tuesday, August 18, 2015, Superintendent Dr. Art Tate explained his recommendation to close the school at the end of the 2015-2016 school year to parents and teachers at two informational meetings.

Nearly 40 people attended the first session Tuesday. Among them were several parents who are worried about the proposal.

"We want our kids to be safe, to walk to school. We need a neighborhood school. We don't want them to be bused, there's a lot of stuff going on on the buses," said Sharlene Evans, whose daughter will be a 7th grader at J.B. Young this year.

Dr. Tate said bringing J.B. Young's building up to the district's standards would cost nearly $11 million, which is twice as expensive as the average cost of the other most needy schools. The current enrollment also puts the school at 57 percent capacity. Only MidCity High, the district's alternative school, has a lower enrollment-to-capacity ratio.

Tate said some programs, like extracurriculars and elective classes, can't be offered because of the low enrollment.

"Same thing for the band, the orchestra, the chorus -- they're rather small," said Tate. "They have more courses at other schools, more electives. And that's what it's all about in intermediate school, really trying a lot of different things."

Tate envisions moving the district's administrative offices from the Achievement Service Center to J.B. Young, and using the school's first floor as a community center. The district could then sell the ASC building.

Tate said he believes retirements and normal movement among staff in the district should provide enough flexibility to absorb all J.B. Young employees at other schools.

The proposal would save the district about $1.9 million.

Tuesday, though, several parents were unhappy with the plan. Many of the concerns focused on transportation and the importance of maintaining neighborhood schools.

"Parents in these neighborhoods can't always afford to get on the bus to go get their kids. If these kids get in trouble, the school's going to call and say, 'Come get your kid.' But parents can't," said mom Tammy Kargbo.

Under the proposal, students would be transported to either Sudlow, Williams, Smart, Jefferson or Madison, depending on boundaries to be established.

The school board is expected to consider a resolution to close J.B. Young at its meeting on Monday, August 24, 2015. A final decision, though, likely wouldn't come until October 26th.