Half of the students who’ve been accepted to attend the new high school on the Marygrove College campus come from a highly sought after group: Detroiters who currently aren’t attending schools in the Detroit district.

That’s a key demographic for the district, which is trying to increase its enrollment to maintain financial stability. The high school is part of a unique campus at Marygrove, because eventually the “cradle-to-career” initiative will also include an early childhood center operated by Starfish Family Services, a K-8 school operated by the district, and a college-level teacher training program.

The enrollment data was part of an update on the new school that Superintendent Nikolai Vitti recently provided to school board members. The school, which will be called The School @ Marygrove, will focus on engineering and social justice. Students must take an examination as part of the application process.

“This gives you insight into how we can bring students back into DPSCD,” Vitti told school board members during a recent committee meeting. The board is evaluating Vitti in part on his success in increasing district enrollment. Vitti, who is about to enter his third year as superintendent, has looked to create new and unique schools to attract families to the district. 

About 50,000 school-age children who live in the city attend charter schools, either in the city or the suburbs. Thousands more attend suburban school districts. 

A $50 million contribution from the Kresge Foundation (a Chalkbeat funder) is supporting the cradle-to-career program. The University of Michigan, a key partner, will use the K-12 schools to develop a unique approach to training teachers that will be similar to the way teaching hospitals train resident doctors.

Since the plans for the campus were first revealed last fall, Marygrove officials announced the college will close at the end of 2019. The closure is not expected to affect the cradle-to-career initiative.

So far, the high school — which is starting with ninth-graders and will add another grade each year — has accepted 90 students. It has enough slots for 120 students and recruitment is still ongoing. On July 13, the district is holding a community cookout on the campus that will allow people attending to find out more information about the campus.

Here are a few more details about the new school:

Drawing from the neighborhood

Of the 90 who’ve been accepted, 75% of them live in the two-mile area that surrounds the Marygrove campus in northwest Detroit. Students who live in that zone had a slight advantage in enrollment.

“We were very intentional about trying to recruit from the neighborhood,” Vitti said.

Vitti said it’s something the district could consider at existing examination schools that provide no such advantage. He said he often hears from families who live near other exam schools, but they have difficulty getting their children enrolled. 

“There is an opportunity to think about changing the application process to give points to people who live by the school,” Vitti said.

Meanwhile, nearly all of the students who’ve enrolled — 96% — live in the city. The remaining few are from Southfield and Farmington Hills.

A later start

The school day will start around 9 a.m., about an hour or so later than most high schools in the district. Many sleep experts have been urging the nation’s high schools to move their start times to later in the morning because research shows it’s better for teens. The day will end later for the Marygrove students.

Community services

The partnership with the University of Michigan will allow the district to provide services not only to students, but also to their parents and others in the community. That could include a dental clinic, a health clinic, and a counseling program, Vitti said.

“The vision is that undergraduate and graduate students in these different areas will work and learn on the campus so we can build a pipeline for social workers, for psychologists, for nurses that we are having trouble staffing. And we can hire them afterwards.”

A commitment

Vitti said he’s working with university  officials to ensure that graduate and undergraduate students placed at Marygrove commit to working in the district for three years after they’ve left the training program. That would ensure that those UM students wouldn’t take what they’ve learned and go elsewhere.

“I don’t want to be a farm system for another school district,” Vitti said.