msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 3/17/2010 1:36:21 PM ET 2010-03-17T17:36:21

The city will close 44 public schools and a support building in June as the district addresses budget issues and declining enrollment, a Detroit Public Schools official announced Wednesday.

Six more schools are slated to close in June 2011, and seven more will close a year later,  said Robert Bobb, emergency financial manager for Detroit public schools.

Bobb announced the closures as part of a proposed five-year plan to reorganize and create a leaner district.

The closures are in addition to the shuttering of 29 schools before last fall.

Many current programs will be moved to other buildings. Bond money would be used to build new schools in targeted neighborhoods.

The nearly 88,000-student district faces a deficit of at least $219 million. Full-time enrollment is projected to drop to about 56,000 by 2015.

The plan seeks to reduce costs by eliminating unused space in the wake of shrinking enrollment, as students flee to the suburbs. It will mean thousands of students once again will be shuffled between neighborhood schools.

"I think it's just ridiculous," Laurie Ann Jaime, 36, of southwest Detroit, who has five children in district schools, told the Detroit News. "If one of my kids' schools closes, it will be the third time we've gone through this."

"Where do they expect my kids to go next?"

'No more time to waste'
Detroit Public Schools, Michigan’s largest school district, has nearly 90,000 students in 172 schools throughout the city.

Bobb wouldn't say how many jobs would be lost under the plan, but acknowledged the district would need fewer principals, teachers and staff.

Bobb said his team is seeking to preserve schools in areas that the city and nonprofits have identified for development, the Detroit Free Press reported. Some schools are being closed because they are in areas suffering the worst levels of abandonment, he added.

The closures and mergers dovetail with an academic plan Bobb unveiled earlier this week that calls for a 98 percent graduation rate and 100 percent of students being accepted to college by 2015.

"We have no more time to waste. We know that we have not only a financial emergency but an academic emergency as well. In many of our schools, we have a reading emergency, a writing emergency, a science emergency, and a math emergency," Bobb said in a statement.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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