School’s Out? Proposal for school closure has been reviewed by school board


Graphic by Eva McCord ’21

With the Grosse Pointe Public School district losing approximately 100 students per year, the school board has reviewed a proposal that would require the administration to consider a school closure if that school does not currently meet certain conditions.

According to the proposal, these conditions include student enrollment decreasing by 10 percent or more than the district projected in any given year or if the school building is at less than 50 percent capacity. Along with these guidelines, student enrollment dropping below 2,909 students in K-5, 1,488 students in 6-8 or 2,949 students in 9-12 is also considered a trigger for the board to consider a closure.

“I don’t envision us having school closings at this point in time, but down the road, I think we will always have to consider it as long as we keep losing students,” Superintendent Dr. Gary Niehaus said.

With the closure of a school, the district would have to redesignate boundaries, causing students to have to attend a new school in the district.

We at the Tower urge the district to proceed with caution. While the proposal may be helpful for the district’s budget, students of closing schools would be most affected. Students would have a farther commute to their new school. Relocation would cause a sudden spike in class size, leading to even more limited classroom resources. And what would happen to the teachers of the school? We believe that there are too many risks with this proposal, and the district should focus on other options that would encourage enrollment.

If the board were to close an elementary school, making another elementary school larger, for example, the district would have more money to use for the programming there, according to Board President Brian Summerfield. However, we worry that it may be questionable to rely on this thinking. What if the board has to put that money elsewhere if something unexpected arises in the next few years? We believe there are too many variables at play to completely commit to this proposal.

“It’s hard to anticipate what the overall effect would be and I think that anything we decide to do would be done with the best interests in mind,” Summerfield said.

According to Dr. Niehaus, a controversial but possible solution to decreasing enrollment would be charging tuition for out-of-district students to attend Grosse Pointe schools. We believe this could be a possible option if the district can ensure these students would contribute to a positive school environment– academically and socially– and should be an idea that is explored further.

The board has also looked at providing a fifth year of high school for students interested in taking steps to earn an Associate’s Degree, according to Dr. Niehaus. We believe this would be a beneficial program and help increase enrollment in the district’s high schools, and also would be a great opportunity for students that may not be able to afford traditional college.

If the board continues to seriously consider enacting this proposal, we believe the proposal should have an amendment that summarizes the plans and programs in place to help transition and accommodate students and families of closing schools. The Tower appreciates the board’s proactiveness but hopes they will explore other options before resorting to school closures in the future, as we believe there is too much unpredictability with the impact a closure will have on the district and its students.