By Bill Short
The Millington School Board has voted unanimously to rename three schools for reassignment of students during the 2021-22 academic year after E. A. Harrold Elementary is closed.
Board members took the action during their Dec. 7 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Mark Coulter and seconded by Barbara Halliburton.
Beginning in August 2021, the Millington Elementary, Middle and Central High schools will be renamed Millington Primary, Intermediate and Central Middle/High, respectively.
During discussion shortly before the vote, board member C. J. Haley asked about the “thought process” employed in the renaming.
James “Bo” Griffin, superintendent of Millington Municipal Schools, said the names “Primary” and “Intermediate” were chosen because other school districts have done the same when they had to combine schools or close one.
Board member Marlon Evans asked about the new name for the high school.
Griffin said that, because it has always been called Millington Central High, the district does not want to “take away” from its past while looking toward its future.
At its Oct. 5 meeting, the board voted unanimously to assign all Pre-K through third-grade students to the Primary, all fourth- through sixth-graders to the Intermediate and grades 7-12 to the Central Middle/High School during the next school year.
Griffin called this the “most efficient way” to take care of the students from the standpoints of academics and facilities.
By putting all Pre-K-3 grades in one area, he said, the teachers will be able to “really focus” on literacy and math foundational skills.
While noting that the high school has “plenty of space,” Griffin said the seventh- and eighth-graders will be on the first and second floors nearest to the gymnasium. And double doors between those two areas will be closed to keep them separated from the older students.
“They’ll be changing classes, only on a smaller scale,” he said. “So, there’ll be more time for them to learn how to be successful at the high school, because they’ll be in that building.”
Griffin said this plan is the best way to take care of the students with the existing facilities, and it also saves money in the long run.
“The more money you can save,” he noted, “the more you can put back into the classrooms to take care of them academically.”
Although the district will have only three schools during the next academic year, board member Cody Childress said he thinks it will be able to “revisit” the E. A. Harrold building someday and make use of it in “some form or fashion.”
Griffin agreed that it will “definitely” be used for some things. While noting that the district owns the 20 acres where it is located, he said it could build a new school or add other facilities to meet the needs of the students or staff.
Because a new roof has been installed on both the cafeteria and gymnasium, he said they could be used to store extra desks or equipment.
During a telephone interview late last week, Griffin said it is costing the district too much money to keep E. A. Harrold open as a school. As an example, he noted that the board is spending 20 percent of its utilities budget on that one building.
At a March 10 special called meeting, the board voted 4-3 to close E. A. Harrold on a date that had not yet been determined. Childress, Haley and then-Chairman Larry Jackson dissented.
The meeting was held in the Millington Performing Arts Center shortly after a 90-minute Community Forum was conducted to allow parents, teachers and students to express their opinions on the issue.
During discussion shortly before the vote, Childress acknowledged that the board had postponed action on E. A. Harrold for several years. He said that was not its choice, but it had to work with the money that was available.
Although many residents were unhappy that the board built the PAC, Childress said it was following the same plan that the Shelby County School Board had.
“They were going to build a new performing arts center and competition gym before they ever did anything with E. A. Harrold,” he recalled. “We just kind of picked it up from there and did what we could with what we had.”
Childress said he came to the meeting “adamant” that E. A. Harrold had “run its course.” But listening to the parents’ concerns made him think the board could possibly put “a little more money” into the school and “get one more year out of it.”
At a March 19 special called meeting, on a motion offered by Childress and seconded by Halliburton, the board voted unanimously to close the school at the end of the 2020-21 academic year.