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School board rejects Whitmer's plan to close Benton Harbor High School

Benton Harbor Area Schools Central Adminstration building
Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
The Benton Harbor school board met Friday to address the state's plan to close Benton Harbor High School.

The fight for Benton Harbor High School is still alive.

The Benton Harbor school board rejected the state’s plan to close the high school.

Stephen Mitchell, the school board president, says community members and Benton Harbor High Schools alums have been speaking out at meeting and on social media since Whitmer’s administration made the plans public. They all want to keep the high school open.

“I did not hear not one comment from the community or the taxpayers that indicated they wanted to see the high school close,” Mitchell said.

Edward Pinkney, a longtime Benton Harbor resident and reverend, says he actually didn’t expect the board to reject the state’s plan.

“I am happy to hear that they refused to accept the governor’s proposal,” Pinkney said.

The state says Governor Whitmer’s administration plans to close the predominantly black high school because it has historically had poor academic outcomes, and the district is $18.4 million in debt.

Tiffany Brown, a spokesperson for the governor, says the state will continue working with the district to develop an educational plan.  

More from Brown’s statement:

Governor Whitmer, Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist, and Treasurer Eubanks have spent the past few weeks listening to Benton Harbor school board members, community leaders, students, and parents to hear their thoughts and ideas. The governor’s number one priority is putting students first and making sure every child in Benton Harbor has a path to postsecondary success. The state is currently reviewing the plan that the Benton Harbor school board put on the table this week, and the governor plans to continue working with the school board to ensure K-8 students have the support they need and to ensure high school students are on track to graduate postsecondary with a degree or skills certification.

Joseph Taylor, the school board vice president, says the board is currently looking at all of its options to ensure Benton Harbor students don't get bused out to predominantly white school districts. 

Taylor also says the school board hopes its decision doesn't prevent the state from continuing to work with the district. 

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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