EAA chief proposes closing southwest Detroit school

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

The Education Achievement Authority’s Phoenix Multicultural Academy may close its doors for good at the end of the school year because of plummeting enrollment.

Phoenix Multicultural Academy has 190 pre-K to 8th grade students. The school was built to house 900.

After decades of declining enrollment and struggling academics, EAA chancellor Veronica Conforme will propose the EAA board of directors take formal action to close the school, possibly at its April 19 board meeting.

Detroit Public Schools, the EAA and community agencies are working with the families of Phoenix to help them find higher performing schools nearby, according to an EAA statement.

Conforme informed parents and staff of the potential closure at a special meeting last week.

“The recommendation to close a school is never an easy one, but the EAA is being honest about the school’s past and present academic performance and declining enrollment,” Conforme said in a statement.

The school’s decline in enrollment has made it financially unsustainable, Conforme said. Just 21 percent of the building is being used.

If Phoenix closes, it would be the first EAA school to do so since the state-run recovery district opened in fall 2012 with 12 direct-run schools and three charter schools, all formerly part of DPS. According to state data, the academy had 372 students in 2012-13.

News of the possible closure comes as the EAA’s future itself is in doubt. In February, Eastern Michigan University pulled out of the interlocal agreement authorizing the EAA, effective June 30, 2017.

Christine Bell, executive director of the Urban Neighborhood Initiatives, a community renewal nonprofit based in southwest Detroit, said her organization is sad that the school is set to close, “but we are committed to supporting the parents and students to find a new school.”

Bell said, in partnership with other southwest Detroit organizations, UNI will host a neighborhood school fair from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. April 23 at the organization’s All Saints Neighborhood Center, 8300 Longworth. They also will partner with the Congress of Communities of Southwest Detroit to host a community meeting to discuss the building April 19, possibly at the Phoenix Multicultural Academy, 7735 Lane St.

The fair will allow families to meet with the leaders of other southwest Detroit schools to help them decide where to send their children.

“Due to the low enrollment and academic performance at Phoenix, closing the school is what is best for the students to ensure they have a quality education,” Maria Salinas, executive director of the Congress of Communities, said in a statement. “We will be working with parents and students as soon as they return from spring break on finding a new school.”

Steve Wasko, executive director of enrollment for DPS, said the district is ready to accommodate Phoenix students and families.

“We have been working closely with the EAA and community partners to ensure that the Phoenix students and families are able to enroll in higher-performing schools,” Wasko said. “We will also continue a collective conversation around what happens with the facility in the future.”