Board OKs two-step merger of 68th, 81st Street programs

MILWAUKEE  – Milwaukee Public Schools’ 68th Street School and 81st Street School programs will merge in a two-step process approved by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors Thursday night.

The programs will come together to serve regular education and special education students from 3-year-old kindergarten through 8th grade at the 81st Street School building, at 2964 N. 81st Street in the city’s west side Cooper Park neighborhood, beginning this fall.

The second step of the two-step merger is a planning process, involving neighbors and parents, to determine the future of the school, including grades served, programming and even the potential for a name change.

Transportation savings from the plan are expected to total $250,000. The cost of moving the school is expected to be $60,000, resulting a net savings of $190,000 for the district and taxpayers.

MPS administrators recommended the plan approved by the Board after engaging with parents at both schools, neighbors and city leaders during community meetings, focus groups and Board public hearings.

The Board had voted in December to approve the closure of the 68th Street School building but asked administrators to move the program.

The merger approved by the board Thursday night includes creating 36 seats for half-day regular education 3-year-old kindergarten students for whom no state aid is provided. Transportation will not be provided for the 3-year-old kindergarten regular education program. A variety of special education programs will be provided at the school for students, beginning with 3-year-old kindergarten. The existing early childhood education staff from 68th Street School will be merged with the 81st Street School staff.

“Community involvement is key to our success – and we had a great showing of community involvement in this process,” Superintendent Gregory Thornton said. “Now we have a plan in place that respects the students and the history at both schools. It brings parents and neighbors together to help determine the future.”

The plan for the long-term future of the school will be presented to the Board no later than November of this year to take effect beginning in the 2013-14 school year.