All over the state, school districts are announcing their intention to close schools. In Washtenaw County, Chelsea and Saline have said they are in the "definite" camp, and Ypsilanti and Willow Run are both highly likely to close schools. I doubt that is the end.
But this is not the first time that schools have closed, and--on the theory that those who don't know their history will repeat it (not always for the better)--it seems well past time to look at whether past school closings paid the dividends that past school boards wanted. In other words: was it worth it?
I moved to Ann Arbor in 1985, and at the time, the community was abuzz with the possibility of closing schools. Ultimately, six schools were closed, and there was quite a lot of reorganization as well. I didn't have kids then, and I was new to town, so I paid some--but not tons--of attention. In any case, I have spent some time, on and off, over the past several weeks looking for information about these closings, and now I think I have enough information to put up some posts over the next couple of weeks.
Three thoughts to start us out:
1. The 1985 closings were part of a long (very long) deliberative process that gathered steam over time, and covered the tenure of more than one AAPS superintendent. The timelines today, by comparison, seem like when you put the video on fast forward and get the "Mickey Mouse" voices speeding by. In other words: deliberative process? What is that?
2. Whether you think those school closings were successful depends in large part on your assessment of the defined objectives. In the case of the 1985 school closings, the primary issues were desegregating the schools and reducing the underutilization of some schools (particularly at the elementary and middle school levels). There was more, but those were the BIG ideas.
3. The law of unintended consequences suggests to me that we should also be looking at how these changes caused other, unintended, changes. Were those unintended consequences desirable, or undesirable?