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Detroit Public Schools looks to boost enrollment with door-to-door initiative, "community schools"

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools’ emergency manager was out knocking on doors Friday.

Jack Martin canvassed the neighborhood near Thurgood Marshall elementary school—his own alma mater--in an ongoing effort to boost the district’s enrollment.

Martin says the only way to “sustain” the district—still burdened with a $76 million deficit after more than 5 years of emergency financial managers-- is to lure more Detroit students back to traditional public schools.

“And I think we’re teed up to make that happen,” Martin said. “But we’ve got a lot of competition. Charter schools, other districts. I’m up for the competition.”

Martin says the campaign is targeting neighborhoods around schools with extra capacity.

With the door-to-door campaign and other initiatives, the district hopes to bring in 5000 more students than its projected enrollment of about 46,000 when school starts next month.

Detroit Public Schools have lost more than half its student population in the past decade.

Martin also debuted the district’s 21 “12/7 community schools” this week.

The idea behind that concept is to make schools true community hubs. They’ll stay open longer, and offer a variety services with help from the Michigan Department of Human Services. Similar programshave had some success in places like Cincinnati and New York.

Alonzo Bell, a pastor in the neighborhood around Clark Preparatory Academy on Detroit’s east side, says he’s excited these schools plan to offer “wraparound” services for the whole family, like child care, job training and even medical services.

“These parents… some of them are working two or three jobs, making very low wages, and some of them are unemployed,” Bell said. “They need help in all those areas.”

Officials say the services offered will vary by school, and be phased in over the course of the coming school year.

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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