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Detroit closes, consolidates more schools in ongoing transformation effort

Southwestern High School is one of the Detroit schools that will close for good.
Southwestern High School is one of the Detroit schools that will close for good.

The Detroit Public School system will shrink again next fall, as the district scrambles to revamp itself amidst declining enrollment.

This is just the latest in several waves of restructuring, as the district must constantly re-adjust to a student population that shrinks every year—and has fallen about 60% overall since 2000, from more than 167,000 students to about 69,000.

The district will close 16 school buildings this time around, though some students will move into four new buildings (see the full list here).

But it’s not all closing and consolidating this time. The district also plans to turn four schools over to charter operators.

And Emergency Manager Roy Roberts still has yet to decide which Detroit schools will go into the Education Achievement System—a new, eventually-statewide district for the lowest-performing schools.

Roberts says he’ll announce which 15 next month.

“It’s about doing it right,” Roberts said. “I know the [EAS] capacity. The capacity over there is 15 schools. They’re gonna get 15 schools.”

There will be other changes, too. The district will start to create an individualized learning plan for each student, which they say will help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses.

“The individualized learning plans will be automated and built electronically from existing data systems, using [tests scores] benchmark assessments as well as other data, such as attendance,” said Superintendent of Academics Karen Ridgeway.

Detroit Federation of Teachers Vice President Mark O’Keefe says the continued upheaval is stressful for everyone, especially teachers. 

“But What Mr. Roberts is trying to put into place is something that will bring stability in future years,” O’Keefe said. “Unfortunately, it’s one more year of change to get there. But if achieves that goal, that’s the same goal that we have.”

“So, we keep waiting for the music to stop, and everyone to get a chair and be in one spot.”

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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