Enrollment drop means possible school closures in Grosse Pointe

Declining enrollment is a problem for many public schools in our state, with districts trying to figure out how to make up for those lost tax dollars.

That's the case in Grosse Pointe, where leaders are now weighing whether to consolidate or even close certain schools.

"Everybody believes we should close an elementary or middle school, just not mine," said Dr. Harry Niehaus, superintendent. "We've been declining enrollment. Significantly. We've been on a decline for 15 years. We've lost 100 to 50 students a year for over 15 years." 

This past year, the district was down 218 students.

"We had a board resolution we passed back in June, (it) began to trigger a conversation on reconfiguration," said Niehaus. "If we hit any of the trigger, we hit one by going down 218 students."

Grosse Pointe has nine elementary, three middle schools and two high schools. The two high schools, according to Niehaus, will not be touched. But what to do with the elementary and middle schools is the issue. 

"If we have nine elementary neighborhood schools, we have to do something at the middle school. If we want all three of our middle schools, we're only going to have to look at what we are doing at the elementaries, whether we can keep them all or not," said Niehaus.

The school board wants to make a decision by the end of June and the main reason why is because of the school millage that passed back in November.

"We took $111 million in construction money. We've got half of that money currently, at $66 million," Niehaus said. "We're ready to start doing construction. We don't want to put some of that $66 million into buildings that we're going to close."

The Grosse Pointe school district ranks in the top five in the state year after year, and schools are a big reason that people move to and stay in the area, and property values remain high.

"If we don't keep our quality of schools," Niehaus said. "Those things you mentioned will be impacted. If we keep up the quality of schools, people will continue to want to be a part of this community."