Potential plan in the works to help Benton Harbor Area Schools

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WNDU) - The Benton Harbor Area School Board and the Community Engagement Advisory Committee held a virtual meeting Tuesday, to discuss a five-year Academic and Financial Operating Plan for Benton Harbor Area Schools.

The committee consists of parents, students, teachers and others who want to see the district thrive.

The advisory committee formed subcommittees and assessed four categories.

First, community engagement. They found that safety and security, and teacher recruitment were big concerns for the district.

Next, they assessed academics and programs, specifically academic performance and student participation, and found the district is performing below state standards.

"As much as it appears to be a dire situation, I think what’s most important is that there certainly is a potential to turn things around," said Joyce Parker with the Michigan Department of Treasury.

Third, the committee looked at the budget and finance, and found over the past 10 years, the district maintained an average deficit of almost $15 million.

Last, they reviewed buildings and facilities, and found the district has too many.

“We worked with a consultant to inspect all buildings currently in use or not being used by the district," Parker said.

The committee has established funding for the plan and, if approved, would like to implement a better safety plan; hire more qualified teachers; reduce the number of buildings; and work on the budget.

“To conduct a business office evaluation, budget process and implement the findings," Parker said.

Starting Wednesday, the public can review the plan on the committee's website.

The school board will have to vote on this plan by mid-May.

If approved, the plan would be implemented in the 2020-2021 school year.