GROSSE POINTE, Mich. – Last year, 218 students left the Grosse Pointe School District. The move triggered defensive moves by the school board.
It is looking at closing several schools to rightsize the district. The idea is highly unpopular with parents. Parents gathered recently hoping to talk the district officials out of closing any schools, at least for now.
In the 1970s the Grosse Pointe School District had nearly 12,000 students. This year it is down 35% to 7,500 students. Dr. Gary Niehaus, the district's superintendent, told Local 4 the steady decline already had the school board's radar up.
"Not only do we have a declining birth rate but we also have a declining population across the state of Michigan," he said.
Niehaus believes it is time to act and that will start with closing several schools. Both elementary and middle schools are being targeted. So far there are no school names on the target list.
In Grosse Pointe, many are ready to break out the checkbook to ensure this doesn't happen.
Mike Calin, a father of two daughters ages 8 and 10, is leading that charge.
"What we are looking for is more time. We don't see emergent need to start shutting down schools in a year. We want time for the community to be able to solve the problem through our education foundation," he said.
The foundation can take in private donations to the public schools. In the meantime, there is another issue parents have.
The district is in a hurry to move because last fall parents voted to tax themselves more. Around $111 million was raised as part of a school repair bond.
The district doesn't want to spend any of that money on a building that is going to close down eventually.