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Mississippi congressman pledges federal funds to repurpose closing Jackson public schools

As the Jackson Public School District moves forward with a plan to close 16 schools due to declining enrollment, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are pledging to help in repurposing the buildings.

Congressman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., on Tuesday offered federal funds to the Jackson Public Schools District Board of Trustees to avoid the schools becoming “eye sores” after their expected closure.

“The concern is that buildings left vacant will over time become eye sores,” Thompson wrote. “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.”

Thompson pointed to other parts of the country where schools have closed but communities have taken advantage of an unfortunate situation by turning the facilities into community centers, health and wellness centers, or 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,” Thompson continued. “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.”

While an exact amount in funding has not been finalized, Thompson added that he can also help the board identify state and local funds on top of the federal dollars.

Since the 2015-16 academic year, JPS has lost nearly a third of the district population, or about 8,500 students. The dwindling enrollment could result in the following 16 schools closing their doors for good:

Clausell Elementary School Dawson Elementary School G. N. Smith Elementary School Green Elementary School Key Elementary School Lake Elementary School Lester Elementary School Oak Forest Elementary School Obama IB Elementary Raines Elementary School Shirley Elementary School Sykes Elementary School Wells APAC Elementary Chastain Middle School Whitten Middle School Wingfield High School

As different parts of the community – especially those with stakes in Wingfield High School – continue to fight the closures, a final plan is expected to be voted on by the board on Dec. 5.

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