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Highland Park high school students learn options now that their school is closing

Jun 9, 2015

Schools (public and private) around the city of Highland Park set up tables and handed out literature in an attempt to lure students who won't have a high school in their own district next year.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The emergency manager of the Highland Park schools organized a community forum which turned out to be a carnival of surrounding schools. They set up tables and handed out flyers, trying to entice Highland Park’s students. That’s  because the charter school operating the district is closing the high school.

Don Weatherspoon was appointed emergency manager of the school district.

“Tonight’s fair is intended to help students make a decision about their future in terms of high school,” Weatherspoon told reporters just outside the entrance of the school.

The president of the elected Highland Park school board says this will fracture the community as students are scattered to different schools who are vying for them.

“I feel like they are being sold off to the highest bidder," said Glenda McDonald.

The charter school company which has been operating the high school, the Leona Group, says it’s lost too many students to keep the high school open.

Weatherspoon says there are still enough students for kindergarten through 8th grade.

State-appointed emergency manager over the Highland Park school district, Don Weatherspoon, talked briefly with reporters outside the high school.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

“They’re holding steady. They’re projecting 340 students for K-8,” Weatherspoon said. “So, that is financially feasible for the next year.”

Those projections come even though the school district has been losing students every year. The current contract with the charter school has been shortened and does not currently extend beyond next year. Weatherspoon said the district will have to determine “year-by-year” whether there are enough students to continue operating K-8.

Weatherspoon says the district is facing a deficit budget.

“The PSA system’s deficit is about $400,000, but there are some uncontrollable things showed up, for example, water bills which we are trying to address with the PSA because those are things that were unexpected,” he explained. The district also owes a DTE power bill. The two utility bills could add hundreds of thousands of dollars to that deficit.

The state took over the district because of a deficit of about $7 million. The president of the elected school board, Glenda McDonald, says things are not getting any better.

“You know, this has increased since the emergency management. It hasn’t decreased."