Major changes coming to district as Detroit school board OKs restructuring plan

The Detroit school board approved a comprehensive restructuring plan that will result in some schools moving to new buildings, some programs moving to new schools, and one traditional high school becoming an exam school. 

The changes are part of efforts to increase enrollment, streamline access to programs, provide students with safer learning environments, and reduce unnecessary spending, officials have said. The plan is key for the district’s goal to rebuild the school system after nearly eight years of emergency management. 

The board approved the restructuring unanimously during its monthly meeting Wednesday night, and the changes will take effect in time for the 2020-21 school year. 

The plan originally included a proposal to convert Martin Luther King Jr. High School to a full exam school and change its attendance boundary.  The King proposal likely will come before the board for approval at a later date.

The restructuring will affect more than a dozen schools. A few examples of what’s in store are below:

Southeastern High School: The school will become a traditional high school with its own attendance boundaries. Students would still have to take an exam to be enrolled in the school’s business administration program. Southeastern will gain an advanced manufacturing program, courtesy of a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Programs in information technology, welding, and cutting will move from Golightly Career Technical Center to Southeastern.

Golightly Career Technical Center and Davis Aerospace Technical Academy: The existing culinary program will remain at Golightly, and the district’s food and nutrition program would relocate there. Davis Aerospace will remain at Golightly or move to the city airport. The district is already holding some Davis Aerospace classes at the airport.

Detroit International Academy for Young Women: The school, which currently is housed in the old Northern High School building, will move. The new location is a district-owned building formerly occupied by a charter school. The district’s eventual goal is to move its headquarters to the Northern building. 

Communications and Media Arts High School and Ludington Middle School: The school will relocate to the campus that now holds Ludington Middle School. Students at CMA will also be required to take an exam as part of the application process. Ludington students will remain in the building until current students have graduated.

The district’s effort to move Davis Aerospace classes to the airport was applauded during the public comment period of Wednesday’s meeting.

“Having kids back at the airport is probably the best investment you could make for our children,” said Jason Jones, a Davis Aerospace graduate and pilot.  

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the board approved spending $25 million from its rainy day fund to address immediate capital project needs, such as replacing out-of-date boilers and fixing leaky roofs.

Nearly $9 million would pay for projects associated with the restructuring plan. 

The board also approved a resolution to ask Wayne County voters to approve the renewal of a millage that has provided millions of additional dollars for schools across the county. The millage would appear on the November ballot.

The district has used revenue from this millage to cover some pay increases for teachers. A change to the state law will allow charter schools in the county to share in the revenue if the millage is renewed. If the millage isn’t approved by voters, it would cost the district $15 million to $20 million in revenue.    

“Not renewing this millage would have a disastrous impact on our operating budget,” Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said during the meeting.