At a community conference on education in the Hill District, those in attendance had a chance to vote on three models for the future of their elementary schools. The models, developed by the Hill District Education Council, recommended the conversion of the schools to partial magnets or adding optional programs focusing on technology and science as well as a foreign language.

STAY THE COURSE —Rev. Johnnie Monroe urges the group to remain active.

“We believe we can develop an excellent education in the Hill,” said council co-chair Rev. Johnnie Monroe. “We want to put to rest the myth that Black kids can’t learn.”

The three Hill District elementary schools, Miller PreK-5, Weil PreK-5 and Vann K-5, could undergo several changes in light of a report recommending the closing of the Vann building. For this reason the council designed models for two elementary schools with the remaining building to house an early childhood center or community and family resource center.

Many members of the community, made up of parents, teachers, pastors and other education professionals, wanted more information before they voted on the models. Some of them were not ready to accept the closing of one of the schools at all.

The options designed for Miller are to keep it African-centered and add foreign language options or to make it a foreign language partial magnet. The third option would add a foreign language option, but change the school into an African Arts Academy.

Under all options for Weil, the school would remain an accelerated learning academy and add foreign language options. The difference would be making the school a partial technology and science magnet or adding technology and science or environmental studies options.

Most of the group was on board with the proposal to change Vann into a center, but many wanted both a early childhood center for all Hill District Pre-K students as well as a community and family resource center with programs such as, adult education, after school programming, family support and mental health services.

Overall the community felt priority should be given to Hill District residents for whatever new programs were brought into the schools. They said a partial magnet would divide the students and tier systems wouldn’t give all students the same opportunities.

“We’re going to need your support on every step we take so that the council isn’t just doing it,” Monroe said. “We need some parents at the table.”

Monroe and fellow council co-chair Sala Udin encouraged the group to help get more people involved as only an estimated 40 people attended the meeting. After further meetings, they said they will take the agreed upon models to the school board.

“Everyone came out today and participated, but it doesn’t mean necessarily you’re committed,” Udin said. “This is going to be a long road for us to get this done.”

School board representatives, Thomas Sumpter, District 3; Randall Taylor, District 1; Mark Brentley, district 8; and future District 1 representative Sharene Shealey also attended the meeting. Taylor was especially critical of the school closing recommendations and Superintendent Mark Roosevelt’s handling of past school closings.

“He mismanaged the school closing process the first time. If you sit back and think he’s not going to make mistakes again, you’re sadly mistaken,” Taylor said. “We need to come together as a city.”

A meeting to discuss possible school closings across the district is scheduled for Nov. 23 from 6-9 p.m. at the Reizenstein building.

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