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Protesters: Save DPS school that serves special needs kids

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Protesters rally in support of saving Oakman Elementary in Detroit. Protesters rally in support of saving Oakman Elementary in Detroit.
DETROIT (WJBK) -

There was a last ditch effort Wednesday to save Oakman Elementary and Orthopedic School, a Detroit public school that services a high number of disabled and special needs children.

Last month, DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts announced a plan to close or consolidate 28 Detroit schools. That number was later reduced to four, but Oakman remained on the list.

"We prayed in blood, sweat and tears to have a school that would address our students with the kind of needs that these students have. We're not going to just walk away after all the money that's been poured into this school," said Sandra Hines.

DPS says most Oakman students, special and general education, will transfer to Noble Elementary School, which is 1.4 miles away. A smaller group of third to fifth graders considered physically or health impaired will be relocated to Henderson Academy, which is 2.5 miles away. Transportation will be provided based on district policy.

Angry student and parent protesters marched from Oakman to Noble, the same walk the kids will take next school year past abandoned houses and poorly constructed roads.

A spokesman for Detroit Public Schools said enrollment is down 50 percent at Oakman since 2009. The building needs flooring and bathroom repairs, and mechanical and security upgrades would cost the district more than $900,000.

In a statement, a spokesman for DPS said, "Operating buildings like this does not help to achieve our end goal of providing quality education to all of our students because it pulls limited resources away from the classroom. Relocating the Oakman students to two better facilities will allow the district to better utilize its resources for improving educational equality."

DPS has assigned special care agents to assist parents in the consolidation process, including helping to match children with special needs programs already in place at Noble and Henderson. Both schools are prepared to make renovations to accommodate new students.

Detroit Schools told us they are working to keep as many teachers as possible, but some could be laid off because of declining enrollment across the district. Any teachers laid off would be eligible for rehire when a position opens.

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