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We Live Here

front of house with mural
Justin Boyd / Courtesy of Yvette Rock

There has been a lot of discussion over the past five months about school closures in Michigan. In January, we explored what the history of school closings in Detroit have meant for both kids and neighborhoods in our documentary We Live Here.

The week before we aired the documentary, the state’s School Reform Office released a list of 38 schools that faced closure at the end of the school year because of persistently low test scores. 

Gompers Elementary-Middle School in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood was one of the schools on that list.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The state says 38 schools with persistently low test scores might not have to close by the end of the year. At least, not yet. These schools now have 60 days to come up with a turnaround plan using what the state calls a "partnership" model. We wanted to know a little bit more about what that partnership strategy might entail, so we took a trip to Dearborn to find out. 

students next to lockers in a line
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The fates of neighborhoods and schools are intimately intertwined. That's especially true in high-poverty areas like Detroit. 

You can see those fates playing out in tandem across the city in part one and two of this documentary. 

So how do we make sense of what is happening, not just in Detroit, but in cities all across the country?

And why, despite wave after wave of reforms, do America’s inner city schools continue to struggle?

Nadia at the book club at the Brightmoor Artisans Community building
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

In part one of our State of Opportunity documentary, We Live Here, we spent time in Littlefield — a Detroit neighborhood right on the edge. It’s trying for a comeback, but so much depends upon whether the elementary school there stays open. 

Now let’s visit a neighborhood that’s past that point. A place where most of the DPS schools are long gone - abandoned, torn down or replaced by charters.

Noble Elementary-Middle School
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

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Over the last 15 years, cities across the country have faced wave after wave of school closures. Places like Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia closed down dozens of buildings at a time. 

But the district that closed the most schools during that time was Detroit Public Schools