Superintendent says district is taking steps to preserve quality services for children
The MPS Administration is proposing a number of strategic actions to preserve quality services for children. A group of district schools are proposed for closure, while others are proposed to merge.
In addition, the administration is preparing proposals that, if approved, could result in cost savings due to lease terminations, re-purposing of certain buildings, and the sharing of services.
The following are some of the actions to be considered March 22 by the School Board’s Committee on Accountability, Finance and Personnel.
Proposed for closure: Siefert School, 1547 N. 14th Street
Phillis Wheatley Elementary, 2442 N. 20th Street
68th Street Early Childhood School, 6720 W. Moltke Avenue
The closure of 68th Street would result in expansion of early childhood classes at the nearby 81st Street School, and would save the district more than $100,000 in transportation costs.
Proposed for merger: Hopkins Street School, 1503 W. Hopkins Street and Lloyd Street School, 1228 W. Lloyd Street.
These two schools would merge at the Lloyd Street site and become a community school exemplified by the Harlem Children’s Zone movement.
Proposed to share a site: Dover Street School, 619 E. Dover Street and Tippecanoe School for the Arts and Humanities, 357 E. Howard.
Dover and Tippecanoe would vacate their current sites and move to the larger Fritsche building, which has been vacant. The move allows these two schools to share a principal and consolidate services. 35th Street School, 3517 W. Courtland Avenue.
The program would move to the Milwaukee Campus for Technology, Trades and Media.
The schools proposed during the March Board cycle for closure or merger are operating at about half their capacity, and each has seen a drop in enrollment over the past ten years.
Enrollment has an impact on school budgets because children are counted for state aid purposes. All of the schools listed above were facing challenges in providing quality programs and services for next school year.
Governor Scott Walker has proposed cuts in his state budget that are projected to result in a decrease of $74 million in aid to MPS next year.
The cuts include elimination of P5 funding, which is state money that supports small classrooms in the early grade levels.
The loss of the P5 money will have a potentially devastating effect on school budgets.
Schools affected by this include Siefert, Wheatley and Hopkins. Hopkins faces a budget shortfall that would result in only 10 teachers to cover all eight grades next school year, and would also lose art, physical education and music programs.
There are other measures on the Committee’s agenda for the recently held March 22 meeting, which is available online at http://mpsportal.milwaukee.k12.wi.us/portal/server.pt (Click on the logo for the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, then click on “Meeting Agendas”).
The Accountability, Finance and Personnel Committee meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Central Services Auditorium, or immediately following the prior scheduled meeting.
District policy regarding facilities calls for the Board to take action on closures no later than December 31 if the closure happens in the following school year.
Superintendent Gregory Thornton stated that the recently proposed cut in state aids forced the administration to take action later in the school year to mitigate financial challenges in the coming fiscal year.
“We may bring forward another set of consolidations and closures in April, too,” said Dr. Thornton. “The net result could be up to ten schools closed this spring. We are trying to carve out savings in facilities so we can protect programs for children.
It will always be about how we can serve children better.”
The MPS strategic plan calls for reducing $10 million in three years from the costs it takes to operate excess space. As of 2010, these costs have been reduced by $7.07 million.
Two school closures have already been approved by the Board this year; Lady Pitts and Vel Phillips programs are to end in June 2011.
The district continues to actively seek new purposes for vacant buildings, in an effort to preserve the integrity of communities and the investment of city taxpayers.
The current process to identify buildings or programs for closure takes into account the vacancy rates of buildings; academic performance; transportation; proximity to other programs and facilities; building and site adequacy; and recreation facilities and recreational programming.
The district has commissioned a facilities and operations review.
Based on results of that review, there may be additional consolidations and building closures within MPS in years to come.
For additional information, call MPS Communications Director Roseann St. Aubin, (414) 475- 8237. Follow district information on Twitter, @MilwaukeeMPS.