Detroit Public Schools Master Facilities Plan undergoes significant changes following input from community

Steven Wasko at 313-873-4542
Kisha Verdusco at 313-873-8401

After an exhaustive community vetting process, which included more than 40 local community meetings and nine Town Hall meetings since the list of candidate schools for closure was announced just over two months ago, Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb has made significant changes to the district’s five-year Master Facilities Plan, a $1 billion strategy in two phases to ensure most students attend classes in new or recently renovated schools that are equipped to offer a 21st century education.

The first phase of the Master Facilities Plan, which includes a $500.5 million “Proposal S” voter-approved construction project beginning this month, will transform the district by renovating some schools, replacing others with brand new buildings and consolidating student populations to create a smarter, leaner DPS. The plan will reduce 3 million square feet of excess space and save the district $28 million over the next three years, with more savings to come as more efficient buildings are put into use. Capital improvements beyond those funded through Proposal S are subject to future voter approval through a community-led process.

Thirty-two school buildings and one support building will be closed this year, nine school buildings will be closed in the 2011-2012 school year and four school buildings will close in the 2012-2013 school year, totaling 45 school buildings closed over the three-year period. Some programs will see dramatic changes, including the expansion of Detroit International Academy, which serves girls in grades 6-12 into a K-14 school. Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men, which serves boys in grades 6-12, will also see a K-14 expansion. Seven schools will see grade reconfigurations and the Barbara Jordan program will close and the building will house the new teacher-run University District Preparatory Academy.

“To make the right decisions in the best interests of the students and families, we needed to hit the ground and go right to the heart of each affected community. The plan we have today reflects that,” said Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb. “The reality is that schools must close, but we have done our best to ensure that in every case children will benefit from our decisions.”

“This plan is focused on improving schools in every neighborhood so all DPS students can attend a safe, secure facility that promotes academic success,” Bobb said.

Additionally, more school closures could take place next year, with some likely to be schools that fall into Michigan’s Recovery Zone, which is comprised of the lowest-achieving 5 percent of schools in the state.

The closures being announced today, which will be effective this month, were based on a variety of factors, including enrollment, demographic trends of the surrounding community, cost of operation, building condition and academic performance. Also taken into account was City of Detroit development data. Students who qualify for busing will continue to receive transportation to their new schools. Summer school programs will continue as planned at campuses slated for closure.

The schools that were removed from the closure “candidates” list are: Bagley, Carstens, Communication and Media Arts High School, Detroit City Alternative High School, Detroit Day School for the Deaf, Dossin, Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women, Glazer, Hally Magnet, Kettering High School, Kettering West Wing, MacDowell, Mason, Sherrill and Southwestern High School and Thirkell.

Dossin will remain open after parents and staff recruited more than 90 new families who were served by a nearby charter school that is closing. The students and staff at MacDowell and
Mason made impactful presentations about the strength of their programs and the need to protect the district’s northern borders from competing entities. Glazer will remain open given development initiatives undertaken by nearby Focus: Hope, with whom DPS will partner.

Northwestern High School, which was slated to be replaced by several alternative programs, will remain open. The Northwestern building will become the site of Ben Carson Academy, a new high school focusing on the medical professions. The school, which is named for the famous neurosurgeon and DPS graduate, will partner with one or more of the nearby hospital medical campuses, beginning with a freshman class in the fall of 2011.

Southwestern High will temporarily house Earhart Middle in a wing while a new PK-8 school is built on the Earhart site. The area near the school is expected to see some development, which will make the school more viable.
Communication and Media Arts, which was initially slated for closure because the building is in poor condition, is a finalist in a national competition to win a building makeover. The School community made a strong commitment to maximum the capacity of the building by recruiting “new” students to its school and the District.

In addition, Detroit Day School for the Deaf will be expanded to serve high school students through a special inclusion program that will allow students to take core subjects at the school and other subjects at traditional high schools, through sign language interpreters. Middle school students will have an inclusion program with Edmonson, which is expanding to eighth grade. The programs will be compliant with state and federal laws.

Catherine Ferguson Academy will accept teen mothers from the Boykin Continuing Education Center, which will close. Catherine Ferguson will become a transition school, where students will be expected to move on to traditional high schools.

Kettering High will serve students from Trombly in a wing of the school, which will reduce costs and raise the enrollment of the building, while giving more students access to the newly repaired swimming pool and other amenities at Kettering.

Thirkell will accept students from the closing Jamieson Elementary, located less than a mile away.

Academically achieving programs at Bagley, Carstens, Hally and Sherrill will remain open.

In addition, the program at Malcolm X Academy, Detroit Public Schools’ first African-centered program, will move to a location within Durfee School.

The new closures will be: Barsamian, Hancock, Longfellow Annex and Detroit Transition Center East and West. The school district will work with the communities affected at those schools.
Students who currently attend Detroit Transition Center East and West, where facilities are inadequate to meet the needs of students it serves with severe mental and physical challenges, will attend classes at the Drew building, which will receive $5 million in renovations to accommodate them. The building has only one story, which will make navigation easier for physically impaired students. Drew will be moved to Parker.

Bobb stated that the district will work with the communities at two schools that serve expelled students, the Barsamian Preparatory Center and the Hancock Center, to determine potential alternatives to serve those students due to extremely high operating costs per students, as high as $41,000, that far exceeds state reimbursement at the existing schools.

Some of the closures, including Harding and Earhart Middle schools, will be temporary because new schools are being built on the same sites.

More than 30 receiving schools will receive improvements in lighting, fencing, mechanical systems, roofing and security this summer to prepare them for additional students. The district will spend approximately $19 million from Proposal S, a $500.5 million voter-approved bond measure, to improve the learning environments at schools that will be reconfigured.

On the west side of the city, Lessenger Elementary will be reconfigured as the Dixon PK-8 program and the school will receive mechanical upgrades, bathroom renovations and improved lighting. Murphy, Taft and Emerson, which have successful academic programs, will also receive capital improvements to support their grade reconfigurations and new students. On the east side, Spain, Golightly, Duffield and Kettering High School will also see improvements this summer.

The 2011-2012 school closures will be: Duke Ellington, which will become part of the Detroit School of Arts East program in the Beckham buildings. It will serve as a feeder program for DSA High School. Gompers, Maybury and Vetal will close to move into brand new buildings, while Hamilton, which has seen declining enrollment, will be closed and its boundary absorbed by Brown and Carstens.

Among the 2012-2013 closures will be Barton, O.W. Holmes, Logan and Parker, which will close that January and the students moved into brand new schools built, with Barton and Parker students attending the new Mackenzie PK-8 school to be built nearby the former Mackenzie High School and O.W. Holmes and Logan students attending the new Munger PK-8 to be built at the current Chadsey/Munger site. Crockett and Finney High schools will close later that year and move into a new building. Rutherford PK-5, which has declining enrollment, will close that year and its boundary will be absorbed by Bow PK-8 and JR King PK-8.

The Detroit Public Schools Master Facilities Plan:|
– Supports the district’s Academic Plan by expanding the number of PK-8 programs, developing PK-14 campuses that offer Dual Enrollment and College Suites and creates or expands specialized programs for Arts, Communications, Math, Science and Technology
– Reduces 3 million square feet of space and cuts operating costs by $21.3 million in 2010 and ensures lower maintenance costs when newer facilities come on line in the future
– Has the potential to invest more than $1billion throughout the city, with the goal of strengthening each neighborhood by closing outdated, underutilized schools and placing students into modernized or rebuilt structures that facilitate 21st century learning
– Will coincide with the district’s $41 million security plan that will ensure safety and security at every school

Phase I will see the investment of $500.5 million from federal stimulus bonds, starting this summer, while Phase II will require a future investment of $500 million.

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