MLK College Prep students will have 6 choices for next year while new school is built

 

An exterior of a school building, identified on a sign as Trezevant High School.
Trezevant High School is one of six schools that students at MLK College Preparatory High School can choose to attend next school year, as construction on a new high school in Frayser begins on the site. (Laura Faith Kebede)

Students at MLK College Preparatory High School in Frayser will get to choose from among six schools to attend beginning next school year, as Memphis-Shelby County Schools begins construction of a new high school on the same site.

MLK College Prep is closing as it returns to MSCS control after 10 years in the Achievement School District, a failed state effort to turn around struggling schools, mostly under charter operators. The school board rejected the school’s bid to return to the district as a charter school.

The new school on the site, which is expected to open in 2027, will replace MLK College Prep and nearby Trezevant High School. Trezevant, which is in the district-run iZone turnaround program, is one of the six schools that displaced MLK students can choose to attend next year, district officials said at a town hall meeting Thursday.

The others are Craigmont High, Medical District High, Raleigh-Egypt High, Middle College High and Manassas High.

Patrice Thomas, chief of strategic operations and planning adviser for MSCS, explained that MLK College Prep students will be assigned to Trezevant High by default. Transportation will be provided to Trezevant, but it will also be provided to two other schools that draw the most MLK College Prep students.

“Trezevant is the closest school to MLK, but that might not be the option for all our students,” Thomas said. 

“We want to get a list of the top two schools that most of the students are interested in attending, and we’ll provide the transportation,” she said.

Two of the six schools — Middle College High and Medical District High — have minimum requirements for enrollment and may be off limits to some MLK College Prep students.

District communications chief Cathryn Stout said the district doesn’t have a lot of flexibility around the requirements because those schools are connected to college campuses, and many of the requirements were tied to students’ behavior.

“They want to make sure that students who are coming to use their college campuses, their college resources, have a certain behavior level,” Stout said.

A new high school in Frayser has been on the drawing board for some time, and for years, the district has been seeking funding for a school to replace Trezevant, whose deferred maintenance bills are among the highest of the public schools. 

This year, MSCS received $9.9 million from the Shelby County Commission to help build the state-of-the-art school, which is expected to cost around $90 million.

Construction is expected to begin next April and end by February 2027, according to a schedule submitted by TWF Builders, the contractors for the project. 

Reaction to the announcement of the high school choices for next year was mixed at Thursday’s town hall. 

While most parents and attendees welcomed the idea of a new high school, some said they were frustrated, because they thought the students were going to remain in the school at least for the next school year. 

Others worried about their children adjusting to a new school, and that “territorialism” at Trezevant might lead to their children being bullied.

“It is frustrating to parents, and I don’t think it’s fair to them that they’ve heard so many different stories,” said Tasha Williams, who came out to support the parent group Memphis Lift. 

“We have to roll with the punches,” Williams said, “but the parents had gotten comfortable, because they thought they had time to plan, and they found out that they didn’t.”

Bobby White, CEO of Frayser Community Schools, the charter network that managed MLK College Prep, told parents that the new high school would offer a new beginning for the neighborhood.

“I know that this is challenging. I know that this is life changing,” he said. “But this is a one-time opportunity for 38127. The discomfort of the moment shouldn’t get in the way of the excitement for the future.”

Bureau Chief Tonyaa Weathersbee oversees Chalkbeat Tennessee’s education coverage. Reach her at tweathersbee@chalkbeat.org.

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