Parents at two largely Latino, bilingual schools – one on Milwaukee’s south side and one in Waukesha – are waging battles to save their schools.
Although Kagel and White Rock elementary schools stand 18 miles apart in separate counties, the debates at both fit into the larger, national philosophical issues about bilingualism, small schools vs. large schools, economic pressures on school districts and changing demographics.
At Kagel, a neighborhood school in the heart of Milwaukee’s Latino community, more than 200 parents filled the school’s small gymnasium last month when word leaked out that Kagel was on the list of schools that Superintendent William Andrekopoulos identified for possible closure because of dropping enrollment or performance issues.
Parents reacted with signs that read: “Small school – Ideal scenario” and “Our children’s education is important to us.”
At the meeting, Andrekopoulos assured parents that Kagel, which is 76% Latino, won’t be shut down. But because of low enrollment – 334 students – and increasing district costs, some changes might be in store, such as converting it into an early child education center, he said.
Zuleika Reza, a parent and member of the school’s governance council, said parents don’t want that.
“We want to make it clear that we want to keep it as a small school that’s within walking distance for many families,” she said.