If you drive south on the Hoan Bridge and the Lake Parkway, you can see Bay View High School rising over the surrounding neighborhood, massive and prominent on the landscape.
That symbolized the role of Bay View High School for decades, a pillar of the close-knit Bay View area, the place where thousands of neighborhood kids got diplomas that showed they were on good paths, often toward becoming part of working-class Milwaukee.
It’s been a long time since Bay View High was so connected to the social fabric of the community around it. The high school became the place kids from Bay View don’t go. Name a long list of other schools in the city and suburbs and Bay View kids are enrolled in all of them.
Bay View High stands now as a symbol of the problems facing large high schools in Milwaukee. When 30 teens were arrested at the school on Thursday because of a large outbreak of fights – and all of it before breakfast was over – Bay View became the hot spot for worry about schools in the city.
We could discuss for a long time the changes in the school, talking about race, racism, family breakdown, class, culture, changing times and more. The realities are that Bay View has become a school where large numbers of students come from homes shaped by social dysfunctions and poverty, where seven out of eight students in the formerly 100% white school are from minority groups, where a large portion of the school is bused from elsewhere, where academic performance is not strong and the culture that supports academic excellence is limited to small groups of kids, where safety and behavior are big concerns, and where unhappiness about student-related problems is high among neighbors.