Detroit Public Schools district plans to open 3 new schools

Forty five days into his tenure as Detroit Public Schools' transition manager, the former bankruptcy judge for the city of Detroit has rolled out a plan that people are ready to get on board with.

To understand the changes coming to DPS, it's time to get schooled -- schooled in math, by looking at the district's enrollment and cost, and schooled in the history of the district's painful decline. Judge Steven Rhodes has studied both those issues and has found the decline in DPS enrollment has now stabilized.

Back in 2002, 150,000 students were enrolled in Detroit Public Schools. Now, that number is down to only 45,000 students, though officials say the decrease in enrollment is slowing. They're now only seeing about a 1 to 2 percent decrease each year, as opposed to the drastic drops that were continually being seen a decade ago. 

"Those years you refer to of literally 10 and 20 percent declines in enrollment in an annual basis have passed. They really passed several years ago," says Steve Wasko with Detroit Public Schools. "We have stabilized. What we need to do now is make sure that we can start rising."

The leveling off of declines has led to a bold move by the district -- not closing schools, but rather, adding some.

Detroit Public Schools is adding two new Pre-K to second grade Montessori schools, one in Midtown and one in northwest Detroit. The third schools being added is a dual-language Arabic technical school.

"We need to innovate," says Wasko. "We know that we need to serve the community; we know that we need to serve emerging communities in the case of some of the cultural and ethnic communities in the city of Detroit as well. We know that we need to infuse as much innovation as possible."

Since 2002, Detroit schools lost over 100,000 students. The state legislature is now considering handing over control of the district to an appointed or an elected school board.

In the meantime, Rhodes is hoping to hand over the district, which is operating with a $236 million deficit, better than when he found it.

"Steven Rhodes has an excellent way of putting the entire package together in a way that's communicable and is understandable," says Wasko.

The public, of course, wants to have a voice in this, too. If you live in the city of Detroit your kids attend the school district you can sound off or ask questions on the plan.

You're welcome to attend a meeting at the Martin Luther King Jr. High school on May 10 at 5 p.m.