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"New" DPS boasts stable enrollment, but still short on teachers

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
Enrollment is stabilizing in the new Detroit school district, but there are still 200 empty teacher positions.

The new Detroit Public Schools Community district fell just shy of its budgeted enrollment goal for the year.

The district counted 45,265-45,365 students at the state count day last week. That’s about .5% shy of what the district had budgeted for. 

But coming off a tumultuous year that saw the district almost go bankrupt, district leaders see the numbers as a victory of sorts.

“To come out of last year into this year with a fourth consecutive year of stabilization is incredibly encouraging to me,” said interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather. “And I feel like moving forward, that will definitely be something that we can now move to growing.”

Meriweather credited a slew of “innovative” new programs, like tuition-free Montessori and programs for English language learners, with helping sustain the enrollment trend, saying numbers at those schools were particularly strong.

“Like at Cooke STEM Academy, their enrollment is up 20%. I have to attribute that to the new program and the investment we’re putting in that school,” Meriweather said.

“It’s our time to be innovative and creative, and to provide families with opportunities and choices. And we can do that within the context of a public school system.”

But despite its “fresh start” post-state restructuring, the new DPSCD is still struggling to attract and retain teachers.

There are currently about 200 vacancies across 97 schools. Meriweather said they’re looking to recruit new graduates, and some non-traditional candidates, like retired teachers looking to return to the classroom, even if it’s only part-time.

Meriweather and the district’s transition manager, Steven Rhodes, have made clear that although state laws passed this summer would allow uncertified teachers in Detroit classrooms, they don’t plan to use that provision.

In the meantime, Meriweather said the district is “leveling” classrooms across the district as best it can with existing resources, to minimize the overcrowding that has plagued some classrooms into this 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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