$700 million plan aims to improve Detroit school buildings: 'Stuff is falling apart'

Superintendent says inequality reflected in quality of facilities
Posted at 10:50 AM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 18:27:33-05

(WXYZ) — The state's largest school district plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars improving its buildings, and soon, it will want community feedback.

If the Detroit Public Schools Community District were to restore all of their buildings to their original conditions, the superintendent says it would take $2 billion. The immediate plan is to work with $700 million from the federal government.

“I’m very excited about this, because I feel like one of the best examples of the inequality that our students face every day is the quality of their facilities. You don’t have to go far outside of Detroit to see a difference in the quality of the buildings,” said Dr. Nikolai Vitti, DPSCD superintendent.

Dr. Vitti says the revenue just isn’t there at the local level for much needed maintenance: new roofs, heating and cooling, new windows and masonry.

So, the $700 million one-time funding from the Biden administration will be used to help. Of that, $281 million will go to completely rebuilding five schools, including Cody High School, Carstens at Golightly, Phoenix, Pershing High School and Robeson/Marshall.

Denise Johnson is a Pershing alumnus. Her son, Ke’lin Lewis, is a freshman.

“It’s like a lot of stuff that needs to be done. Stuff is falling apart,” said Ke'lin.

Denise said, “they definitely would appreciate that ... just a little bit more inviting environment for the kids.”

The fifth school slated to be rebuilt is the Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy.

“I have a grandson that goes here and he’s in the first grade. And actually, in reality, three of my own children went ... when it was Hally Middle School. So I really do think the inner city need to upgrade some of the schools,” said Brenda Harris, whose grandson attends the school.

Answering that call is the district’s facility master plan, which calls for $296 million in renovations with $82 million to build additions onto existing schools.

Looking at birth rates in Detroit, the superintendent says you wouldn’t expect school enrollment to increase. However, he says one goal is to put more little ones in early childhood centers with the hope to keep them in the district for years to come.

So, $35 million is earmarked to reactivate buildings that closed and use them for pre-K.

Dr. Vitti says areas where overcrowding is an issue, a K-8 school will be opened. And he says some buildings will be closed for good.

"If this pot of money didn’t exist ... if it wasn’t coming from the federal government, it would mean our buildings would continue to deteriorate," said Dr. Vitti.

He added, “I think that affects the morale of students, families and employees when you’re not going to work or school in a building that you know is not comparable to those outside of the city.”

Dr. Vitti says none of this is a done deal. The proposal is before the board.

After community input is received, a final recommendation will be submitted to the board in May or June.

Here's a tentative list of the upcoming community meetings:

  • Cody, Mumford, Henry Ford Feeder Pattern Facility Engagement Meeting -Tuesday, March 1, 6-8 p.m. (online)  
  • Osborn, Denby, Pershing Feeder Pattern Facility Engagement Meeting-Monday, March 21, 6-8 p.m. (online)  
  • East English Village Preparatory Academy and Southeastern Facility Engagement Meeting-Wednesday, March 23, 6-8 p.m. (online)  
  • Northwestern, Central, Western Facility Engagement Meeting-Tuesday, April 5, 6-8 p.m. (online)  
  • Citywide Facility Plan Engagement-Monday, March 14, 6-8 p.m. (in person) Location Pershing High School 18875 Ryan
  • Citywide Facility Engagement-Thursday, March 24, 6-8 p.m. (in person) Location Henry Ford High School 20000 Evergreen
  • Citywide Facility Engagement-Thursday, April 7, 6-8 p.m. (in person) Location Western International High School 1500 Scotten

For more details, head here.