Wichita school on chopping block

Metro-Midtown Alternative High School would close at the end of this school year under a proposal being submitted to the Wichita school board next month.

District administrators said Wednesday that the change will save about $1 million. They plan to make the recommendation to school board members May 10.

School board president Barbara Fuller said the recommendation is sound, considering the district faces an estimated $25 million shortfall next year.

"It would be different if we weren't having to find money for classrooms next year," she said.

Students and staff members at Metro-Midtown, 640 N. Emporia, were notified of the proposal Wednesday, and parents were receiving letters and phone calls, said Denise Wren, assistant superintendent for high schools.

"It's just a sad decision, but I think in the long run we'll see that this will strengthen our alternative education programs," Wren said.

Midtown sophomore Damien Veazey said he enrolled in the alternative high school this year because he thought it would be easier to improve his grades.

"I'll probably go to one of the other metros" next year, Damien said. "I chose here because it's the closest one to my house."

His mother, Lashaunda Bedford, picked him up at school Wednesday afternoon. She said Damien's grades have improved, and she doesn't think all alternative high schools are the same.

"I like this one," Bedford said. "There's a great principal here."

Some employees leaving the school Wednesday afternoon declined to comment.

Students at Metro-Midtown who are not graduating this spring will meet with school officials in coming weeks to create a "personal transition plan" for next school year, Wren said. At last count, there were 100 students enrolled at the school.

Students will get priority placement at the district's other two alternative high schools, Metro-Boulevard and Metro-Meridian. They also will have the option of completing their high school diploma at one of the district's learning centers or at their neighborhood high school.

The 22 teachers and other employees at Metro-Midtown will be reassigned to other Wichita schools, Wren said.

Metro-Midtown is the smallest of the district's three alternative high schools. Metro-Meridian has 147 students, and Metro-Boulevard has 122.

Wren said the district plans to add one teacher to each of the remaining alternative high schools but will not add many student slots.

"We are worried that this (closure) is going to cut down slots," she said. "But with our learning centers growing the way they are... students have those options as well."

Fuller said with the growth of online curriculum, alternative education has changed since Metro-Midtown opened in 1989.

"We have more things put in place for kids where the traditional method isn't working," she said.

Alternative high schools are designed for students who have not been successful in a traditional school setting. The environment is generally smaller and more flexible than a traditional high school, and includes more one-on-one instruction. The schools also support students who need longer than four years to finish high school.

Wren said the proposed closing of Metro-Midtown is not a first step toward doing away with alternative high schools altogether.

"We know that for many students, this is the right setting for them to be able to continue their education and complete their diploma," she said.

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