Detroit to close its oldest school
Morris Richardson II / The Detroit News

Jocelyn Sanson, a first-grader at McMillan Elementary School, will transfer next year to Beard Elementary.

By Oralandar Brand-Williams / The Detroit News


-- McMillan School's yellow-brick building stands in stark contrast to the garbage-strewn empty lots and abandoned store fronts on West End Street in Delray.
   Word that the 106-year-old school would be shutting its doors for good saddened residents in the heavily industrial neighborhood where poverty and blight are the norm.

Morris Richardson II / The Detroit News

Parent Donna Goines, right, watches as Lynette Bell, left, PTA legislative chairwoman, tells the media that she will fight to keep McMillan School open.

   "They need to keep the school in the neighborhood," said Dorothy Danzy, whose grandchildren attend the kindergarten-through-eighth grade school. "They took all of the grocery stores out of the neighborhood and now they're taking away our school."
   Built in the late 1800s, McMillan is the Detroit Public Schools' oldest building. Thursday's announcement to close it in September is not the first time McMillan students and parents have been faced with the prospect of closure.
   Detroit Board of Education officials considered closing the school in 1993 but decided against it after protests from parents and residents.
   Lynette Bell, an officer of the school's Parent-Teacher Association, fought in 1993 to keep the school open and vows she'll wage another battle to save McMillan.
   Bell expected to meet with other parents today to map out efforts she hopes will save the school. She, like most parents, couldn't understand why the decision was made to shutter the 300-student building, which has been designated a historic landmark.
   "Enrollment has increased at this school, and MEAP scores have gone up," said Bell, whose 11-year-old daughter Alicia, attends the school. "It has been a diamond in the rough."
   Some students from McMillan will be sent to nearby Beard Elementary School. Bell said she is also concerned about environmental problems in construction on the new building for Beard, which is being built on a cleanup site.
   "Why would I want to take my kid over to a school that has environmental issues?" Bell said.
   As word spread Thursday about McMillan's closing, anxious parents came to the school seeking answers.
   "We're dealing with a whole lot," said Wes Ganson, principal of McMillan. "But we are definitely in support of Dr. (Ken) Burnley's plan for transformation. We support it wholeheartedly. We'll never be at a loss. You can close a school, but you can't close a community."

You can reach Oralandar Brand-Williams at (313) 222-2690 or
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