Superintendent Michele Lawrence, who proposed closing City of Franklin Microsociety Magnet School in January, laid out two options for saving the school in a meeting with parents Tuesday night.
First, Lawrence suggested that Franklin, which is modeled after a small city, could remain open next year on a shoestring budget, without a full-time principal, while the district completes a one-year refurbishing of the building.
The superintendent said the school would have to make do with limited funds under this scenario because it is underenrolled, and the district cannot afford to allocate a full school budget to a relatively small number of students.
Second, the superintendent said the district could close down the school for a year during construction, give City of Franklin parents first choice of schools for next year, and invite them back the following year.
Lawrence made it clear that, no matter how the district handles construction and enrollment next year, the school cannot continue to operate, as it currently does, in subsequent years.
Franklin is a magnet school and can only accept students who choose to enroll. The three year-old school has drawn less than 200 students, and the district cannot run it cost-effectively, Lawrence said.
In order to address the problem, Lawrence said the district could convert Franklin from a magnet school to a normal neighborhood elementary school, allowing for standard enrollment. To do so, the district would have to give up two years of federal magnet school funding.
She added that the district could place a pre-school, alternative education, or other program alongside Franklin, which resides in a large building, in order to make better use of the space.
Lawrence ruled out the possibility of moving another elementary school into the building, alongside Franklin, even though parents suggested the maneuver as a way to make better use of building, and save Franklin.
The superintendent had raised the possibility herself in recent weeks, suggesting at a Board of Education meeting that the district might place Jefferson School in the building. But Jefferson parents, in a recent meeting with Lawrence, strongly opposed the idea.
“I was there for two-and-a-half-hours getting beaten up,” said Lawrence, describing the Jefferson meeting. She said Jefferson parents would never go for the move.
Lawrence suggested at the meeting that she would prefer to close down the school for a year during construction, rather than keep students in the building.
But at the end of the night, parents said they were resolved to keep the school open next year.
They added that they would be willing to move from a magnet to a normal school model, but said they want to keep the microsociety concept in place.
Lawrence said, during the meeting, that she is a supporter of the school’s guiding concept, and would seek to keep it alive. “I love the microsociety,” she said. “You don’t have to sell me on the microsociety.”
Councilmember Linda Maio, who attended the meeting, urged parents to show up in force at Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting, and to put forth a unified message: “we want our neighborhood school to stay open.”