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closing schools

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On Friday, Michiganders learned that state officials are preparing to shut down as many as 38 under-performing schools in Michigan. Twenty-five of those schools are in Detroit.

What, if anything, could keep the School Reform Office from closing the schools? And how should we, as a state, deal with schools that are turning out unprepared students?

Matt Katzenberger / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

The latest list of Michigan's worst-performing schools is due to be released any day now. Under state law, the School Reform Office can close schools that have been mired in the lowest five percent for three straight years. But what of schools that say they've begun to turn things around? Or schools in challenged neighborhoods, whose students started very far behind? What happens to those students if the state shuts down their school?

Erin Einhorn looked at one example of this dilemma in a report for Chalkbeat Detroit. It's a charter school in Detroit called the Michigan Technical Academy and they are asking the state to give them more time.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Looks like we've got another tug of war between Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette.

At stake? Whether failing schools within the new Detroit Public Schools Community District can be shut down at the end of this school year.

Today, Attorney General Bill Schuette issued his legal opinion on the matter and Rick Pluta, Michigan Radio’s Lansing Bureau Chief, joined us to explain what went down.

Last month, the state School Reform Office (SRO) announced that 38 schools could be closed at the end of this school year.
Kevin Wong / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

This week, the Snyder administration’s School Reform Office suggested that it could eventually close schools where students have low rankings on state tests.

Schools that rank in the bottom 5% -- with some exceptions -- would be closed under this plan, which would shutter more than 100 schools from across the state.

In an opinion piece this week in the Lansing State Journal, John P. Smith III criticized the state’s plans.

Smith is a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University and he joined Stateside to talk about why he thinks the closing of the schools, and the methodology that led to that decision is flawed.

Allen Academy is unimstakably a former Catholic church.
Allen Academy / via Facebook

How do you decide if a so-called “failing” school should shut down, and is there a right way to do it?

Three Detroit charter schools shut their doors forever at the end of this school year.

One of them, Allen Academy, was one of the city’s very first charters. And its closure leaves a wake of upheaval.

"The kids are going to be better off"

The ornate, red-brick complex on Detroit’s west side is unmistakably an old Catholic church.

The Saint Theresa of Avila parish closed in the 1980s. Since 1999, it’s been Allen Academy.

Last night, the Farmington School Board voted to close or consolidate three district schools, including Harrison High School, over the next four years.

Board members in the suburban Detroit district called that a tough decision, but a necessary one in light of declining enrollment – a common situation statewide.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Developers have until tomorrow to tell Lansing school district officials what they would like to do with an iconic high school in the capitol city.

Children have been learning at Lansing’s Eastern High School for nearly 90 years. But the aging building’s future is unclear.

“Everybody likes the building,” says district spokesman Bob Kolt, “but it doesn’t meet the educational needs for the future.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers could take up legislation next week meant to keep schools out of deficit.

The legislation would require more reporting from schools that are deemed to be in financial trouble. It could also open up more money in state grants and loans.

State Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, says he’s confident the bills will reach the governor’s desk by the end of the year.

“The more I talk about the process that we’re trying to establish the more support we get,” said Walker.

Whitmore Lake Public Schools / https://sites.google.com/a/wlps.net/wlps/

Next week, voters will decide whether Ann Arbor schools should annex the small, struggling district next door: Whitmore Lake.  

And some Whitmore Lake students say this may be the best way to save the small-town schools they love.

The 11th-graders in Jill Henry's advanced-placement government class are bright kids.

Even before they started doing their election projects about this possible annexation, they obviously knew their district was struggling.

After all, the whole district is down to just about 1,000 kids.

It’s $60 million in debt.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state has signed off on a plan to eliminate the Saginaw school district’s budget deficit.

Teacher pay cuts and closing a high school are part of the Deficit Elimination Plan the district sent to the state Department of Education back in July. 

Today state education officials approved the plan, which “is largely dependent on staff reductions and employee concessions.” 

The new contract agreement for faculty at Jackson College institutes a performance-based pay system
Sharon Drummond / Flickr

There are fewer Michigan school districts running into the red this year, and even more are projected to work their way out of budget deficits by the end of the school year.

Politicians in Lansing say they're encouraged by the trend, but peel away the top layer and it's not all good news. MLive Capitol reporter Jonathon Oosting joined us to explain why.

*Listen to the interview above.

Detroit taxpayers foot big bill for closed schools

Oct 27, 2013
Flickr user/Dave-a-roni (Dark Spot Photography)

Detroit property owners face a quarter century of payments for construction and renovation of school buildings that no longer operate.

The Detroit Free Press says that 110 buildings covered by $2.1 billion in bond issues in 1994 and 2009 are either empty or demolished.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It’s the first day for school for tens of thousands of Michigan students.

The drumbeat of a new school year literally began bright and early this morning in Marshall, as hundreds of students packed the school’s gymnasium.

Among them were about 140 students from Albion.   Albion school officials decided to close that district’s high school last spring to save money.

Dan Luciani is Marshall’s high school principal.  He says the transition has been going well today despite some crowded classrooms.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the school year for tens of thousands of Michigan school children.

For many kids, the year is starting in a different school district then they attended last year.

About a thousand Inkster children will be attending classes this fall in four different Wayne County school districts. The state dissolved the Inkster public school district over the summer because of the district’s chronic financial problems.

The same thing happened to the Buena Vista school district. The bulk of its students will take classes in Saginaw classrooms.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Detroit's pension systems vs. Kevyn Orr

Detroit has two pension systems and both have posted fairly strong funding levels. But emergency manager Kevyn Orr has questioned some of those numbers. Orr spokesman Bill Nowling says using more realistic projections changes the funding levels, but Detroit’s pension systems say their numbers are correct.

Michigan schools might consolidate services

Michigan schools could be forced to consolidate many of their services into county-wide systems if state lawmakers decide to go along with a plan released yesterday by state Superintendent Mike Flanagan. Flanagan wants services like transportation, food, and staff training to be handled at the county or regional level.

“And local districts, they can spend time on student achievement issues and not worry about all that other stuff,” Flanagan told Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher.

Detroit City Council will select new leader

The Detroit City Council is expected to select a new president today. The board typically numbers nine but now has six members after two recently resigned and the former President Charles Pugh deserted his duties.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The man hired by the Flint School Board to find buyers for closed school buildings is not optimistic he’ll be able to find buyers.

Last night, the Flint school district hired Cooper Commercial, a Genesee County commercial real estate company, to try to find buyers for more than two dozen old schools and other buildings.

Twenty seven seniors from Buena Vista High School graduated yesterday. After the school district's difficult year and budget crisis, the graduation was a happy event for the school and community. The future of the school district remains uncertain.

From prep4md / Flickr

The Mount Clemens Community School District is closed Tuesday due to reports of two methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infections. According to the Detroit Free Press, a teacher and teacher aide were diagnosed with MRSA on Monday. 

School is expected to re-open on Wednesday after custodians disinfect buildings and buses today at the 1600-student district, today said Superintendent Deborah Wahlstrom.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - The Flint School District board has decided to relocate Flint Northern High students and close four other schools as part of a cost-cutting effort.

The Flint Journal reports that following Wednesday's decision Flint Northern, known as the "Home of the Champions," will close as a seventh through 12th grade building. Students there will go to Northwestern High and Southwestern Academy.

Flint Northern will become the Northern Alternative Education Center and offer a new program for students in seventh through ninth grades.

Elaine Ezekiel / Michigan Radio

You might have heard how Genesee and Lapeer counties closed down all their schools today and tomorrow due to rumors spreading across Facebook, Twitter, and texts.

But how could a rumor close so many schools?

Below is a Storify narrative of how one text message prompted a social media wildfire in southeast Michigan.

You can click on any of the linked text or images to follow the story further.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids Public School district would close 10 schools under a new “transformation plan” unveiled Monday night.

Over the past decade GRPS has lost 7,000 students; dropping it to the fifth largest district in the state. Along with the loss of students, Grand Rapids Public Schools has cut more than $100 million and closed 25 schools. But almost half its buildings are still way below capacity and the graduation rate is only 47-percent. 

Frank Juarez / Flickr

Flint school board members have started weighing their options for closing schools later this year.    They didn’t like the options they were given last night.

The two options presented to the school board last night included closing three elementary schools, one or two middle schools and possibly a high school.

School board members were very much against one proposal that included mixing middle schoolers and high schoolers.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing School Board will be talking about closing schools tonight. Supporters of two city high schools are trying to keep them off the list.  

The Lansing School District is looking at a budget deficit that could be as high as $20 million.

Tonight, district officials will outline their plan to pare that number down, and closing some school buildings and reconfiguring other schools is part of that plan. 

Bill Morris is a member of ‘Save Our Sexton’, which is trying to keep Lansing’s Sexton High School off the closure list. He says they’ve been working with the Eastern High alumni group fighting its closure to get district officials to delay any decisions for a year.

"They do share many of the same goals, in terms of the future of the district," says Morris, "The only thing we really differ on is the building to close.  If a building has to be closed in this matter for the obvious reasons. School Board president Myra Ford says she’s been briefed on part of the plan. She expects no action will take place for a month because the plan may be more broad and effect more schools than most people expect.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing school district may decide in two weeks whether it will close schools to save money.

The school district is considering ways to restructure to deal with a declining enrollment and diminishing state aid.

Last night, the Lansing school board heard from people opposed to any plans to close schools. Lansing resident Richard Kibbee  says the school board should not take the recommendations for which schools to close from a superintendent who is retiring in a few months.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Lansing public schools may soon undergo a big shake up.    

The plan on the table would affect most children in the school district.    

The Lansing public school district has about half the student population it once had. The district is looking at ways to trim its budget in the short term and stabilize its future finances.   

A special task force has been meeting since this summer to come up with ways to address the district’s problems.   

The plan the board of education will see tonight proposes closing a high school and reconfiguring the district’s elementary and middle schools. 

The plan also addresses ways to improve academic performance among Lansing public school students.   The plan calls for offering preschool and developmental kindergarten to 3 and 4 year olds.

Grand Rapids Public Schools has closed Southwest Community Campus school today because of a police stand-off underway in the neighborhood near the school.

Police are looking for a man who they consider a "person of interest" in connection with the fatal shooting of a woman.

That incident happened around six o’clock this morning. Police have blocked off some streets near the school.

The shooting is not related to the school at all, but administrators are closing the school because the neighborhood may not be safe for students to travel through it, according to John Helmholdt, spokesman for the Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Something happened this week which will, unless something changes soon, have the effect of finishing the job of effectively destroying the Detroit public schools. And maybe, Michigan’s future.

The state department of education has ordered Detroit to put in place a financial restructuring plan that would close half the district’s schools within two years. That would result in an  average high school class size of sixty-two students.

Snow in Michigan
Jmenard48/Flickr

A big winter storm has hit parts of the upper Midwest, including Michigan.  There are hundreds of school closings across the state as wind and cold temperatures make a hard commute this morning for motorists.  As the Associated Press reports:

"...a punishing Midwest winter storm pushed through the state, leaving at least two people dead and blacking out 105,000 homes and businesses. National Weather Service officials say high temperatures in the teens and wind gusts approaching 40 mph were expected Monday in Lower Michigan, where residents along southern Lake Michigan got upward of 20 inches of snow. About 7 inches fell in suburban Detroit."

Ann Arbor Public Schools, Jackson Public Schools, Lansing Public Schools, and Kalamazoo Public Schools are just some of the closed school districts across the state.

We're getting word of school closings across the state this morning.  They include Ann Arbor Public Schools, Jackson Public Schools, Kalamazoo Public Schools and Lansing Public Schools.

Be sure to check your child's school to see if it's closed due to winter weather.

The following websites have detailed school-closing information: