Saturday, February 4, 2012

Parents Upset Over Bilingual School's Closure- this could be DC....

This story has been corrected and updated.

Several days before Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts is set to officially announce district-wide school closings, he spoke with parents and teachers in a packed gymnasium at Maybury Elementary in Southwest Detroit Friday afternoon to confirm the school will close after the current school year.

The bilingual school provides instruction to just under 400 students. It lost about 200 students due a consolidation last year that moved fourth and fifth grades to the nearby, newly opened Amelia Earhart Elementary Middle School.

More than 80 percent of Maybury's students are Hispanic or Latino, and Principal Ellen Snedeker said a high percentage of students speak only Spanish.

"It's a school where [students] come in speaking mono-lingual Spanish and are actually taught in Spanish," she said. "We use the skills in their first language to introduce them into English."

Despite the linguistic challenge, Snedeker said, Maybury is a high-achieving school. And she worries about the impact its closing might have on Southwest Detroit's Latino population.

"The problem is that the school is not only a building, but it's really a community center," Snedeker said. "By breaking it up, they're really destroying the community center."

Monica Parga, whose five-year-old son, Jorge, goes to Maybury, said she found the school's closing extremely upsetting. She said Roberts gave a brief presentation Friday but she felt he didn't adequately respond to parents' concerns.

"My thoughts are they're making a very, very, very huge mistake," Parga said. "They're sending us to Neinas. Neinas has failed all their annual yearly progress reports. Maybury has met the standards every single year."

Neinas Elementary, located approximately one mile from Maybury, has failed its Adequate Yearly Progress report, an accountability measure defined by the No Child Left Behind Act, the last three years. Maybury has met AYP in the previous two years.

Snedeker said once Maybury closes, students will be dispersed to three different locations: Amelia Earhart Elementary and Middle School, Neinas Elementary and Beard Elementary School. According to Snedeker, the district decided to close Maybury because of its close proximity to Amelia Earhart.

UPDATE: 1:30 p.m. -- Detroit Public Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Mrozowski released a statement from Roberts in response to this report that Maybury would close:

"Parents deserve to know well in advance-in this case, much earlier than in the past-the changes planned for their children's school, in order to be prepared. This year's process is specifically designed to share all of this information early, and comprehensively, and to follow that with informational programs and enrollment and application opportunities.

We are announcing a comprehensive transformation for Detroit Public Schools aimed at improving academics for all students. The EAA [Educational Achievement Authority] will include dynamic new approaches to teaching and learning that Dr. [John] Covington will be introducing next week.

DPS plans to close, consolidate and merge schools that are under-capacity to create a more efficient system of high-performing schools and drive more resources to those facilities and their students.

We will err on the side of over communicating and, where we don't have all the answers in place yet, we will commit to responding to parents promptly."

On Feb. 9, DPS will officially announce the list of schools to be closed as well as some that will be handed over to charter operators. TheFree Press reports Roberts has spoken about closures at several others schools in the district ahead of his announcement, including nearby Southwestern High School.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Roberts arrived at Maybury Elementary with 10 bodyguards. That statement has been excised from this version and The Huffington Post regrets the error.
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