Saginaw gets MDE extension on plan to close schools, lay off staff

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) gave Saginaw schools a reprieve today. The Saginaw City School District had until Feb. 10 to submit a deficit elimination plan that takes care of their $6.5 million debt. The superintendent-in conjunction with the union-- has a new plan, but asked for an extension after the school board delayed taking a vote Saturday.

Without an approved plan, the district stands to lose its February $4.8 million state aid. MDE has said the district's current plan to cut $14,000 from its budget this year is not enough. 

The superintendent and union plan calls for closing Saginaw High School, Daniels Middle School and Heavenrich Elementary School. The remaining elementary schools would be repurposed for PreK-2 or grades 3-6. The other middle school would house grades 7-8 and the remaining high school would be renamed with a new mascot and serve grades 7-12. 

The closings will cause the layoff of as many as 53 employees and save the district $4.6 million this year.

"I believe this is a plan that will work. Without it, we would be looking at huge rollbacks similar to the ones we've seen in Pontiac," said Sue Rutherford, MEA UniServ Director.

The plan is not sitting well with the public who has expressed its opinions at two previous board meetings. All of the buildings being closed are on the east side of the river. Many see this as a racially-driven move.

Like many large urban school districts, Saginaw is suffering from declining enrollment. Only 7,335 students are enrolled this year. More than half of the students who live within the district are either attending school in other districts or are going to charter schools. 

The school board is expected to meet tomorrow to finalize the plan.