Detroit may close 8 schools

Most would stay intact but relocate to help ease budget deficit; changes may have domino effect.

Christine MacDonald and Darren A. Nichols / The Detroit News

Recommended closures

Under a proposal, the following schools would relocate and the buildings that house them would be closed.
Crosman High School
Recommendation: Relocate to Sanders building.
Malcolm X Academy
Recommendation: Relocate students to Dewey.
Owen Elementary
Recommendation: Move to former University Public at Pelham facility. Expand to K-8 and convert to School of Choice.
Pitcher Elementary
Recommendation: Closing and reassigning students to McKenney Elementary, which will be expanded, and Coffey Middle.
Poe Developmental Center
Recommendation: Relocate students to Keidan Special Education Center.
Post Middle School
Recommendation: Reassigning students to Fitzgerald Elementary, which would be reconfigured.
Mark Twain Elementary
Recommendation: Reassigning students to new Mark Twain at Boynton Middle building.
West Side Academy
Recommendation: Relocating program to Wingert Trainable Center. function NewWindow(height,width,url) {,”ShowProdWindow”,”menubars=0,scrollbars=1,resizable=1,height=”+height+”,width=”+width); }

DETROIT — The financially struggling city district has targeted eight school buildings to close this summer, after prolonging the painful decision for months.

In the end, officials decided on a much smaller number to shutter than originally proposed.

Superintendent William Coleman III and his staff are expected to lay out those potential closures this afternoon at a board committee meeting, along with dozens of changes to other schools, such as adding grades and replacing principals. The eight closures mostly affect elementary and alternative schools, according to a document outlining the recommendations obtained by The Detroit News. The schools slated for closure are: Crosman High, Malcolm X Academy, Pitcher Elementary, Poe Developmental Center, Post Middle, Owen Elementary, Mark Twain Elementary and West Side Academy.

It appears that most of the schools would stay intact but relocate to other buildings. Some will be absorbed into existing schools. The closures may only affect eight buildings, but the moves impact many other schools in a domino effect.

Critics and the president of the school board say closing only eight of the district’s 235 buildings may not be enough to help the troubled district, which is under a state-mandate plan to get out of deficit. The board could vote on the plan as soon as next week.

“We may have to close more schools than what is being recommended,” said Board President Jimmy Womack. “I need to know that the number of schools we are closing will keep us in compliance with the deficit elimination plan.”

This could be the second time Fumiko Pickens goes through school closures.

Last year, the district closed Fox Primary, the school her daughter attended. She switched to Pitcher this fall, and now that school could be closed. Pickens now is considering taking her daughter out the district altogether.

“I’ll probably just take her out of the Detroit Public Schools,” Pickens said. “If I got to keep on jumping her from school to school, I might as well go to a good school.

The shrinking district, currently at 129,000 students, needs to close buildings to save money because they continue to lose thousands of students every year to nearby school districts and charter schools. The district could be below 100,000 students by 2010.

Former CEO Kenneth Burnley pledged to the state a year ago that the district would close 95 of its schools by 2009 for a savings of $41 million. Before leaving in June, Burnley closed 29 buildings and the district was expected to close up to 30 this year.

The Michigan Department of Education has to approve any changes to the deficit elimination plan. School officials are still working on that plan and next year’s proposed budget.

Coleman has said the district can still meet its financial goals and close fewer schools. Shutting down too many schools could drive more students away, he has said. His staff would not comment on the list on Thursday.

But others argue it only prolongs the inevitable.

“Sooner or later they have to confront that there is a significant decrease in the number of students and there must be a corresponding reduction in the number of schools,” said Professor Sharif Shakrani, acting co-director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University.

The community will be able to sound off on the proposed closings at 4 p.m. today at Wayne Elementary, 10633 Courville, and at another meeting on Tuesday, before a final vote expected Thursday.

The delay was due to the process being changed this year to avoid closing academically successful schools and to make sure displaced students were transferred to successful schools, said schools spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo.

“It’s obviously not ideal to notify parents six week before, but we are confident parents will be pleased with how all this was ultimately handled,” he said.

You can reach Christine MacDonald at (313) 222-2269 or

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