BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WNDU) --- The heated conversations had to happen Wednesday night inside Brotherhood of All Nations Church of God in Christ.
The Benton Harbor place of worship hosted a town hall in which Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer clarified her plan to make "meaningful changes" aimed at improving the school district and eliminating its more than $16 million of debt.
"Most importantly, it's about making sure the children have a great education and have the right opportunities, so that they are successful beyond their school years," she told reporters after the event.
Residents expressed concern over the state proposal that calls for suspending -- not closing permanently -- Benton Harbor High School and converting the district to serve grades K-8 only.
"Governor, you can't shut us down. How are you going to have a community without a high school?" a young man asked.
Another person defended the state's top official as other residents questioned whether or not she was giving them the full story about the state's intentions to outsource high school students to other districts.
"It's not about blaming the governor, who's been in office for six months," a former teacher stated.
The plan put forth by the state would allow Benton Harbor high school students to receive free transportation, enabling them to attend one of eight adjacent districts. Meanwhile, students could go to a new public school specializing in career technical education, or CTE, located at Lake Michigan College.
The plan also allows the school district to receive emergency loans from the state to help with debt.
Whitmer stated the Benton Harbor school board has until June 14 to vote on the state's proposal. She added their rejection is a crisis she hope she doesn't face. However, if the board approves the plan, it would go into effect in the 2020-2021 school year.