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More than 40 schools in Detroit, Michigan, set to close under plan

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Detroit closing 44 schools
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • City school district's emergency financial manager unveils $1 billion plan
  • He says plan will allow district to cut operating costs, ensure lower maintenance costs
  • District has been beset with falling enrollment, aging buildings, excess seats
  • Plan includes remodeling, renovation, new schools; part of it needs voter approval

Detroit, Michigan (CNN) -- Forty-four Detroit schools and one administrative building will close in June under a $1 billion plan unveiled Wednesday by the city school district's emergency financial manager.

The district has been beset with falling enrollment as well as aging buildings, emergency financial manager Robert Bobb said Wednesday. The plan will allow the district to cut operating costs by about $31 million in 2010 and ensure lower maintenance costs in the future, he said.

The plan, which complements an academic plan recently unveiled by Bobb, will "create a leaner, smarter DPS," he said.

"We believe that this plan provides certainty where, in the minds of some, there may be uncertainty."

Video: Detroit: Save our schools
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  • Detroit
  • Education

The Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday that an additional 13 facilities will be closed by 2012. District spokeswoman Jennifer Mrozowski told CNN on Wednesday that more schools may be scheduled for closure in the future but could not confirm a number.

"We're calling this DPS 2.0," she said. "We're looking to create a smaller but more efficient district" with an eye toward growth.

The district has 50,000 excess seats, Bobb said, and kindergarten enrollment has declined from 16,046 in 1994 to 6,039 in 2009. Such decreases are expected to continue, Bobb said. The Free Press reported that district enrollment will fall from 84,000 this year to 56,000 students in the 2014-15 school year.

Community members will be able to provide feedback on the plan at a series of town hall meetings, Bobb said. A final decision will be made in mid- to late April. If voters approve a bond measure sometime in the future, he said, "this plan offers a potential investment of over $1 billion in city neighborhoods."

According to the Free Press, other schools will be built under a two-part construction plan. The first phase calls for the remodeling and renovation of 22 schools, using $500.5 million under a bond measure that voters approved in November. The second recommends another $500 million in renovations and new schools, but would require voters' approval of an additional bond measure.

The plan will coincide with $41 million in security upgrades at all schools, Bobb said. It was formulated after officials considered factors including enrollment vs. capacity, academic performance, and the conditions of neighborhoods and facilities, among others.

The proposal also calls for the construction of new campuses, aimed at educating everyone from preschoolers to college students, the Free Press reported.

The previously released academic plan calls for a 98 percent high school graduation rate and a 100 percent college acceptance rate by 2015.

"We're still going to grow the district," Bobb said, but will do it "realistically."

The plan also aims to protect schools along city boundaries as officials believe the district would further lose students to suburban districts if those schools were to close, he said.

The district closed an additional 29 schools last year, Mrozowski said. It ended the 2008-2009 school year with a deficit of $219 million, which is projected to increase to $316.6 million by the end of the year, according to Bobb.

"I do anticipate that the cumulative deficit will be further decreased as I implement further cost savings during the rest of this year," he said. A spending and hiring freeze has been implemented, he said.

Last week, the Kansas City, Missouri, Board of Education voted to approve a plan to close 29 educational facilities, including 26 schools.

 
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