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Financially Struggling District To Close Only High School In Highland Park

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (WWJ/AP)  - Continued slumping enrollment has forced the Detroit enclave of Highland Park to close its only high school, an emergency manager appointed by the state said Thursday.

Highland Park's Renaissance Academy High School will shut down after this academic year and its 160 returning students will have to transfer to other districts for fall classes, emergency manager Don Weatherspoon said.

"We must ensure that our high school students have every opportunity for the education they need and deserve with the absolute least disruption possible," Weatherspoon said in a news release.

The charter school operator managing Highland Park schools, Leonia Group, says they can no longer keep the high school open because of declining enrollment.

"After months of studying the enrollment in the PSA here in Highland Park - I had to make the determination - that based on that enrollment that it was no longer fisable to operate a high school 9-12 through the PSA system," said Donald Whetherspoon, Emergency Manager for Highland Park Schools.

High school enrollment has dropped from nearly 400 students in 2012-13. The district receives about $7,800 in per-pupil funding from the state. It will continue to provide education for about 345 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

"The numbers just don't produce the revenue to sustain the high school," Weatherspoon told reporters in a conference call, adding that he doesn't think the district will lose any more students in other grade levels.

The school district had a total of more than 3,000 students in 2006.

An open house will be held June 8 to make parents aware of other high schools in the area.

In a letter to parents, Weatherspoon wrote: "I realize that such a change can be upsetting for families; especially those who have lived in Highland Park all of their lives and are approaching graduation. We will do everything we can to help make each of you aware of the school choices and options, and that this change is as smooth as possible."

He added that Highland Park will work to assure credit hours transfer. Student athletes also will be eligible for sports beginning in the fall.

School enrollment for Highland Park has dropped along with the population. About 16,700 people lived there in 2000, and the population was estimated to be about 10,400 in 2013, according to the census.

Highland Park Schools have been under state oversight since 2012 when Gov. Rick Snyder declared the district was in a financial emergency. The district's budget deficit was more than $11 million at the time.

A private company currently operates the schools as a charter system.


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