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Uncertainty in Highland Park schools as parents look for answers

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Highland Park school officials are battling to keep their school district from a state takeover.

But many parents there say they just want to know whether the district will last through the next month.

An audit shows the Highland Park school district is running an $11.2 million deficit—mostly because it’s lost more than two-thirds of its students.

In 2008, the district had 3419 students. Today, they have fewer than 1000.

Governor Snyder sent a letter to Highland Park parents this week, saying the district is in danger of shutting down next month without immediate action. The state has also had to advance the district money to make payroll.

And that’s the biggest concern for Highland Park parents like Alicia Battle, whose daughter is an eleventh-grader.

“I just want an answer,” said Battle. “I just want to know, do I need to find a school for my child, or does she still have Highland Park to go to?”

School board officials say they were blindsided by the Governor’s letter, and see it as further proof the state intends to dissolve the district.

But many parents said the letter at least gave them a sense of what was going on—something the school board has consistently failed to do.

But Highland Park schools Superintendent Edith Hightower said the state is keeping them in the dark, too.

“This is a new normal,” Hightower said. “We don’t have any blueprint for what comes next. They’re gonna have to supply that for us.”

While the Detroit Public Schools already has an emergency manager, Highland Park would be the first school district to get an emergency manager under the expanded powers of Public Act 4.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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