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New strategic plan for DPS growth has "community schools," universal Pre-K

A new planoutlines a path for the Detroit Public Schoolsto grow again.

The “Neighborhood-Centered, Quality Schools”plan centers around the idea of “community schools” that offer a wide array of services to the community.

Emergency manager Roy Roberts says after more than a decade of drastic shrinking—DPS has closed 201 schools since 2000—it’s time to go on the offensive.

Roberts said this new plan can guide the way—but the district will need some “creative funding strategies” to follow through.

“In the coming months, the district will approach many leaders… and a broad range of agencies in our community, and the state, in order to form teams to assist in meeting these challenges,” Roberts said.

Roberts says some new initiatives—including universal Pre-K for 4-year-olds—will launch this next school year.

Others, such as art and music enrichment programs for every elementary school student, will be rolled out once funding is secured.

The eventual goal is to foster a “community schools model” offering parenting, life and job skills training alongside other enrichment activities at the schools. School hours would also be extended.

Roberts says setting ambitious goals is the only way for the district to “re-gain market share.” In 2002, more than 80% of Detroit kids attended a Detroit public school—now, just over 40% do.

Still, Roberts plan to close 4 schools in the coming school year—but pledges these are the last closings the district will undertake. “And I’ve instructed the team to close only schools where moving students will place them in a better setting, either academically or physically or both, and impact as few people as possible,” Roberts said.

Kindergarten teacher Vanessa Parnell was “ecstatic” at the news that preschool will now be available to all 4-year-olds.

“That’s a great move, because our students need that foundational preparation before they come to kindergarten,” Parnell said. “That will benefit the schools greatly.”

Parnell was also thrilled to hear the district was finally going to implement an attendance policy. “That’s been needed for some time,” she said.

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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