Glun Sanders could barely contain her anger Wednesday over the closing of Osborn High School by summer.
“Parents need to stand up against this crap because all the schools are already overcrowded, and I’m not going to let my kids go to Pershing (the next closest high school) because it’s too dangerous,” said Sanders, who has two children at the school.
The strong emotion from parents and business owners alike in the neighborhood around Osborn reflected feelings that rippled throughout the city as parents learned the details of a Detroit Schools closure plan. Heads were shaking, tears were shed and voices were raised in neighborhoods throughout the city after Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb announced his vision for a “leaner, smarter” Detroit public school system.
Osborn Upper School of Global Communications and Culture, as it is formally known, is among 45 facilities slated to be closed this summer, with 13 more by 2012.
Bobb took into account shrinking enrollment, demographics, the condition of facilities, academic performance and the city’s efforts at targeted revitalization. But neighbors don’t want to hear it. Street by street, news of Osborn’s closing hit the East Seven Mile area hard. The high school, located along a stretch of fast food restaurants, cell phone stores, beauty supply stores and churches, is considered the glue to the community.
“I’m devastated,” said resident Sharon Stewart, raking the lawn in front of her tidy bungalow Wednesday afternoon. “What’s up with Robert Bobb? What is he doing and why did they bring him here?” Bobb was hired by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to turn around the district’s financial deficit. He worked previously for Washington, D.C., schools.
Stewart said the school provided a good learning environment for students, and also served the area. “I worked the election there for the last four years, and we also held community meetings there,” she said. “This school plays a big role in our community.”
The five-year facilities plan calls for massive closures and the construction or renovation of 22 schools paid for by the $500 million bond measure voters approved in November. More new schools, including a new pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade school on the site of Osborn High, would be built under a future $500 million bond proposal Bobb hopes Detroiters will also embrace.
When the five-year, $1 billion plan is complete, DPS would transform from a district with aging and undercapacity schools to a district where 75 percent of students will attend a new or recently renovated school, Bobb said.
“We believe this plan provides certainty where in the minds of some there may be uncertainty,” Bobb said.
The high school closures reflect the district’s dive in enrollment. High school enrollment is expected to decline from 22,000 to 11,500 in five years.
“That’s the projection; if someone brings us different data, we’ll make different decisions,” Bobb said. “The data that we have shows the high school enrollment will decline.”
Data doesn’t mean much to Ed Poniewierski, tinkering with his brown pickup in his driveway. He simply wants Osborn to remain open.
He has lived in the same house for 65 years and remembers when the high school property was an Army barracks.
“This is a nice neighborhood, and the kids don’t make too much trouble,” he said. “But it would be better if they could leave the school open. If it goes empty, people might get in there and wreck it.”
The manager of Happy’s Pizza, across the street from the school, is unhappy about the closing from a financial perspective. “We’re going to lose a lot of money,” Mac Swift said. “My whole morning’s receipts are based on students.”
The closing also will affect his workers. “I’m going to have to let some people go, and there will be more Detroiters out here with no jobs,” he said.
Osborn junior Becky Lor, 17, wonders how she’ll fit in when she finds a new school to attend.
“I like it here because I’ve made a lot of friends,” she said. “There are only a few Hmong students here and everybody knows each other. I don’t know what will happen now.”
Her mother, Blia Yang, was hoping her middle school child also could attend Osborn.
“I feel very sad,” she said. “I want it to stay the same.”