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Detroit may have to close 26 schools

Teacher Assistant Preston Taylor assists student with class assignment at Kettering West Wing, Detroit Public Schools. Kettering West Wing ranked at the top of the "Top to Bottom" list.

Detroit Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski (say "stroh-dow-ski") wants you to know that administrators get it: Nobody likes closing schools. 

"We look at a school as the anchor or the center of a  neighborhood. And for us to take it away could do some serious damage, and we don't want to do that," she says.

But they do have a $120 million deficit this year.

Administrators think they can get back in the black by 2017, if they make enough cuts.

In a recent letter to faculty and staff, emergency manager Jack Martin mentioned several ideas they're  including in a deficit reduction plan: reducing staff pay by 5%, perhaps, and restructuring health care benefits.

They've also included closing or consolidating 26 schools in that same plan, which they're presenting to the Michigan Department of Education this week.

Still, Zdrodowski stresses that nothing in this plan is set in stone yet – especially school closings.

"When you look at the numbers surrounding the closing of a school, it's really a marginal cost savings. So if we don't do that, it's not going to have a big impact on our bottom line. However, it could have a huge impact on the community and the neighborhoods where those schools are located."

Students are still leaving DPS, and taking state money with them.

Even though demographers predicted that enrollment would decline again this year, DPS administrators based their public budget on a plan to bring in 5,000 more students than they had in 2012-2013.

That didn't happen.

But the district has slowed the losses, from losing 10% of their kids each year, to losing less than 2%.


Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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