Grosse Pointe school district
Trombly Elementary is one of two elementary schools set to close in 2020 in the Grosse Pointe district.

Grosse Pointe (Mich.) board votes to close 2 elementary schools

June 27, 2019
District says it needs to cut costs to cope with declining enrollment.

The Grosse Pointe (Mich.) school board has voted to close two elementary schools as part of a cost-cutting effort to combat declining enrollment.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Robert Trombly Elementary and Charles A. Poupard Elementary will shut down in June 2020. The 5-2 vote came after more than two hours of discussion that included accusations of racism, deception and other improper behavior by the district.

The decision took on racial overtones in part because the majority of students at Poupard are black, and it's the only building in the system that is designated as a Title I school, making it eligible for additional funding to serve poor students.

Agustin Arbulu, executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said Grosse Pointe had a history of deed restrictions that excluded African Americans, Jews and immigrants from some of the Detroit area's wealthiest enclaves.

"Diversity is being invited into the room," he said. "But whether you have a voice in the room is a separate thing."

In a separate vote, the board approved a plan to reconfigure grade assignments for all schools:

  • Elementary Schools: K-4
  • Middle Schools: 5-8
  • High Schools: 9-12

Board members said their actions were difficult but necessary because of declining enrollment. The district has been losing about 100 students per year, which translates into about $1 million a year in funding decreases. It anticipates a loss of 150 students in 2019-20, which will reduce revenue by $1.5 million.

Some Michigan districts boost their enrollment by accepting students from outside their boundaries through the "school of choice" program, but Grosse Pointe does not.

Board president Brian Summerfield defended the decision to close Poupard, saying its proximity to Interstate 94 makes it a health risk for students.

"Nobody wants a school 500 feet from a major highway," Summerfield said. "Five hundred feet is ridiculously close."

The votes followed months of controversy in the district, where walking to neighborhood school has been a tradition for generations. The district doesn't provide buses, and fewer schools means longer commutes to school.

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