Community members, teachers and religious leaders are mobilizing to protest the possible closing of Hopkins Street School in Lindsay Heights at the Milwaukee Public School’s Accountability, Finance and Personnel Committee hearing Tuesday. MPS has proposed merging Hopkins and Lloyd Street School at the Lloyd Street site.
At a meeting last Wednesday at Hopkins, a group of about a dozen people agreed to encourage parents, teachers and community members to attend the hearing tomorrow and testify against the proposal. The group doesn’t object to the merger, but argued that since Hopkins is a larger facility, Lloyd students should come there. Capacity at Hopkins is 799, while Lloyd can accommodate 675 students, according to MPS.
“We’re one of the largest buildings in this community. Why close us down? Why sell us out? Why take away what we’ve worked so hard for?” Redona Williams, a Hopkins music teacher, said after the meeting.
Some Hopkins parents fear that because of looming budget cuts, the school district will reduce bus service. Lloyd is too far away for their children to walk to school, they said.
According to Roseann St. Aubin, communications director at MPS, both school buildings are important to the communities in which they are located; however, Lloyd was recently renovated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Hopkins, 1503 W. Hopkins St., is a K-8 facility, while Lloyd, 1228 W. Lloyd St., has students from kindergarten to fifth grade. The merged school would serve 588 students in grades K-8 and would be renamed the Lindsay Heights Community School, according to MPS. The Lindsay Heights Community School, following the lead of the Harlem Children’s Zone, would offer a college-preparatory curriculum and focus on improved learning, healthy families, and educational and cultural enrichment.
Hopkins and Lloyd are both part of the Lindsay Heights Zilber Neighborhood Initiative (ZNI), which is promoting a community school. Mario Hall, program coordinator, stated that MPS should have involved Hopkins and Lloyd parents more in planning the proposed merger. The Lindsay Heights ZNI has not taken a position on where the Hopkins/Lloyd merged school should be located. “We want all children to have access to quality education within the 110-block radius (of Lindsay Heights),” Hall added.
In September 2009, MPS considered closing Hopkins at the end of the school year because of low test scores. Both Hopkins and Lloyd lay west of Teutonia Avenue, which runs diagonally, and are approximately a mile apart.
“It is more than just a school moving a mile away; it has to do with making a deep wound in the neighborhood,” said Father Thomas Mueller, pastor at St. Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Church and chairman of Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH) Education Committee. “It affects the parents (and) the students, but it affects the neighborhood as well.”
Hopkins and Lloyd both have low enrollment. Hopkins is operating at 44 percent of capacity, according to MPS data. It has 272 students, a 56 percent drop from 615 in 2001. Lloyd is at 52 percent of capacity with 352 students. This year’s enrollment of 352 is down 37 percent from 563 in 2001. Both schools are more than 95 percent African-American.
Lloyd principal Tyrone Nichols said he hopes if the merger is finalized, it will have a positive effect on neighborhood children because increased enrollment results in increased funding. The principal of Hopkins, Dr. Juan Baez, declined to comment.
The merger would save $216,000 in facility operations costs and $25,677 in transportation costs next school year. MPS did not say how much would be saved as a result of staff reductions.
Hopkins supporters plan to tell the board committee, “We don’t want our building to be closed down,” Williams said. “We definitely don’t want it to be rented out, sold out to a charter school or any other entity. We want Hopkins to continue to be Hopkins.”
MPS also has proposed that Phyllis Wheatley School, 2442 N. 20th St., be closed at the end of the school year due to state budget cuts. The school board is expected to make a decision on the Hopkins/Lloyd merger and on Wheatley at the end of the month.
Andrea Waxman contributed to this article.