More than 100 people voiced concerns about the fairness and fallout of potential Dayton Public Schools closures Monday night at an NAACP-hosted town hall meeting.
The event was held at Dayton Boys Prep, one of several schools that district officials have described as significantly under-enrolled. In December, Acting Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the district might close about three of its 28 schools to “right-size” the district.
Since then, a task force has been formed to study all of DPS’ facilities and how the district could boost enrollment. Lolli said all options are on the table and the task force plans to make recommendations to the school board by April 1, with the school board making any final decisions for next fall.
On Monday, NAACP moderators broke the crowd into several small brainstorming groups, where residents asked questions and offered solutions.
Many people suggested there was a need for more communication and context from DPS officials of what was behind the under-enrollment. Others questioned whether any school closings would be fair to students in West Dayton, where all of the lowest-enrolled schools are located, calling it a question of equity.
And some asked why the district built so many schools in the first place given declining enrollment.
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“We overbuilt and we were sold on the idea that it was best for our community, that it was going to create jobs and change our children’s lives. None of that came to fruition,” said Mark Donelson. “It’s not all racial; it’s about business, it’s about participation. Now we’re going to have to swallow this real hard pill of consolidation, but I think it should be around the whole city.”
One group said it made sense that West Dayton enrollment had dropped, because jobs, stores and opportunity had left the community, driving population down. They said it was important not to just react to the current issue, but to attack the root causes.
Dayton Unit NAACP President Derrick Foward said his group would consolidate the concerns people voiced, and would make sure the task force studying school closures had the community’s input and not just business leader input.
The task force studying Dayton Public Schools facilities will have its first meeting at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at DPS headquarters, 115 S. Ludlow St. The meeting is open to the public.
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On Thursday, Racial Justice Now will hold its own meeting for parents on the subject of potential school closures, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Body of Christ Deliverance Center, 2345 Catalpa Drive. State school board member Charlotte McGuire will be in attendance.
Cameron Walker of Racial Justice Now cautioned school officials to consider fallout from any decision, arguing that closing or reconfiguring schools could make truancy issues worse, damaging efforts to improve academic achievement.