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State officials visiting schools they could recommend closing

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

State officials who announced the potential closure of 38 “priority” schools across the state are now visiting those schools. The schools on this list scored in the bottom 5% on state standardized tests for three consecutive years.

They’ll be in Kalamazoo this week.

A couple of weeks ago parents at two elementary schools in Kalamazoo got a letter in the mail from the School Reform Office. It said their kid’s school might close.

Superintendent Michael Rice says the state did not warn them the letter had gone out.

“I will tell you that simply the suggestion of this, the presence on a list, is disruptive to our children and families,” Rice said.

Rice recognizes the schools need to do better. But he thinks local school boards should decide if a school should close, not the state.

“It seems a little backwards, charitably, to make a determination about school closure and then do a site visit,” he said.

The School Reform Office will determine if kids at the schools slated for closure have adequate options nearby. These “unreasonable hardship” reviews are underway and will continue for the next few week, according to a state spokesperson.

Other state officials will check out the school buildings to see what kind of physical shape they're in.

By March, they'll recommend to the Governor’s office which schools to close.

The School Reform Office has taken a more aggressive stance toward dealing with "priority" schools since Gov. Snyder removed the SRO from the Michigan Department of Education last year. That moves put the Office now under his direct control.

Meanwhile, there's Republican-backed legislation in the state senate to repeal the law that allows the state to close failing schools.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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