Board presented with plan to reorganize J.P. King Jr. Middle School

Published 7:12 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2023

The Franklin City School Board was presented Thursday, Dec. 7, with a plan to reorganize J.P. King Jr. Middle School for the 2024-25 school year to expand Career and Technical Education opportunities for students.

The board did not take action to approve the plan Thursday but did vote to continue the conversation about it moving forward.

Franklin City Public Schools Director of Operations Dr. Clint Walters presented the plan, opening by noting that school districts continually monitor their overall operations and make recommendations to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

“ (FCPS Superintendent) Dr. (Carlton) Carter’s vision for expanding our CTE offerings has really brought us to a position where we’re really evaluating the way that we utilize space across the district,” Walters said. “We’re looking to get your permission to split J.P. King so that sixth graders will be attending the elementary school and that seventh graders would be attending Franklin High School for the 2024-25 school year.”

The second slide in Walters’ presentation stated that under the proposed JPK reorganization plan, sixth grade would be housed in Modular B at S.P. Morton Elementary School, having the following expected impacts:

  • Facilitates staffing as the Elementary Endorsement is pre-K-6th grade
  • Decreases additional operating costs associated with a middle school bus run

Explaining this point, Walters said, “We’re looking at this to also decrease some transportation costs because we will have exclusively two routes and not have that third stop at the middle school.”

  • Refurbishment would be necessary for portions of Mod B through the use of existing construction funding.

“We are looking to do some refurbishment to Modular B,” Walters said. “Unfortunately, we’re not really in a position where we have sufficient (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) ESSER funding that’s going to allow us to purchase another new mod, but we do need to take care of the space that we have.”

Walters said that he and fellow developers of the proposed reorganization plan recognize that sixth grade is unique, “and we want to make sure that students in sixth grade are somewhat contained so that they’re able to cycle through their courses.”

The reorganization plan would also move seventh grade to the third hall at Franklin High School, with the following attendant developments:

  • Seventh and eighth grade classes would operate as yearlong classes rather than the 4-by-4 model currently used in grades 8-12
  • Would require some classroom relocation

“We would want seventh grade, definitely, to be contained and also looking at possibly containing seventh and eighth,” Walters said. “We want to make sure that we’re utilizing the space that we have, so some options could include having seventh grade on first hall or containing both seventh and eighth grade on third hall.”

Walters said that he and fellow plan developers know this is going to require some transition of classes, so the school division is going to need to move some things around in order to make it happen.

“But we also are considering whether there needs to be master schedule changes as part of this move,” he said. “Seventh grade historically has operated on a yearlong schedule. The high school has traditionally operated on a 4-by-4 schedule.

“So there is going to need to be some conversation about how we schedule our students in seventh grade, how we schedule our students in eighth grade, and whether we continue with that 4-by-4 model or whether we, for traditionally middle school grades, continue that yearlong model.”

He noted that now is a good time to start having this conversation.

“Historically, in February, we really get into master scheduling and so recognizing how many sections of each class we’re going to need,” he said. “So beginning this conversation in December really puts us in a good place to have some good discussion and answers to questions that need to be solved before we make this move.”

Walters’ presentation noted that the proposed plan is looking to house CTE programs at JPK, with the exception of building trades and early childhood.

“We have permission to begin the early childhood program,” he said. “That is already slated to be housed at the elementary school. We already have the playground equipment, and there would only need to be some minor capital improvements in order for that program to get off the ground.”

He later added, “The other that we would like to keep at Franklin High School is building trades, because again, there’s been some extensive work done preparing the space for that equipment.”

The reorganization plan would involve each CTE program being provided with a classroom space and a lab space, Walters’ presentation stated, adding that FCPS officials are looking at programs that can be double-blocked.

“If we are to make this move, what we’re looking at doing is utilizing J.P. King to house these CTE programs that are traditionally double-blocked,” Walters said.

The presentation also stated that transportation would be provided to and from FHS.

“So we would be able to provide transportation from the high school to J.P. King for a morning session, and then we would provide transportation back to the high school, (then) bring in another group of students to the middle school for the second half of their day,” Walters said.

Ward 2 Board Member Arwen Councill noted that there is a lot of conversation that could be had about this proposed plan, and she cited a couple of factors.

“You’re going to be having seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th, 12th graders mixing,” she said. “I would appreciate additional discussion about this (rather) than just an approval today.”

Walters indicated that he understood, and then Carter made clear the intent behind discussing the proposed plan at the Dec. 7 meeting.

“Before we go any further, I asked Dr. Walters to bring the motion for us to continue to explore, because we’re going to bring more information back to you, but I just didn’t want to go all the way (with the information-gathering process) and (then learn) you didn’t want this at all.

“So I’m asking for us to explore this and that throughout the coming months, we continue to keep bringing you back the information for final approval,” he said. “We want your consent to explore the reorganization possibilities, period.”

The final slide of Walter’s presentation highlighted plan developers’ future steps:

  • Continuing research and planning by visiting local school districts that have developed off-site CTE programs
  • Looking at the necessary requests that would need to be filed with the Virginia Department of Education
  • Planning changes to the master schedule in PowerSchool, including staffing at SPM and FHS

Boone made the motion to continue to explore the concept of the JPK reorganization, and the board voted 5-0 to carry the motion. At-large Board Member Carrie Johnson was not present for the meeting, and the Ward 6 board seat is vacant.