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Benton Harbor Area Schools looking to right-size the district

NOW: Benton Harbor Area Schools looking to right-size the district

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Benton Harbor Area Schools is looking to right-size the district after losing more than 500 students over the past five years.

Interim Superintendent Patricia Robinson held a community forum Tuesday evening to hear from parents before a decision is made.

Leaders have talked about moving forward with a district-wide reorganization for months now.

Funding the move however, has slowed down that process.

Trustees were set to vote on a plan Tuesday, but moved that decision until a final cost analysis is completed.

“Parents, community leaders, you might look at it from a different perspective,” said trustee Martha Momany. “So I’m hoping some creative minds will stop and think ‘what are some of the unintended consequences of any of these moves that we may not be thinking of?’ Because anything we do, we want to do it right.”

Plans for another shake up in this district originally saw traffic returning to these abandoned halls of two now-defunct buildings.

“If you’re going to do what’s good for the children do what’s really good for the kids,” said parent Linda Love.

That proposal didn’t sit well with parents like Love.

She believes the district cannot afford to reopen two schools.

“Leave the children where they’re at and do some much needed repairs, much needed supplies, some much needed programs for the children,” said Love.

The board agreed, cancelling two proposals and saving millions.

Option #1 would’ve seen MLK STEAM students moved to a reopened Boynton School.

But board members felt the $4.5 - 5 million price tag was too steep.

On top of Boynton, Option #2 called for fourth through sixth graders at Fairplain East to also fill the spaces now-occupied by old books and boxes at Fairplain West.

But paying up to $11 million was out of the question.

Parents got a chance to vote on the two remaining and cost-efficient plans.

One would shuffle around students in existing buildings.

The other would do nothing.

“We keep the kids in mind as much as possible but the bottom line is can our budget actually support, what we’re actually doing,” said Robinson.

The two remaining options would run the district anywhere from $7,500 to nearly 48,000.

These changes would impact six schools in the district as well as the central administration.

Benton Harbor High School and Arts and Communications Academy won’t be impacted.

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