By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Oct 23, 2014 at 7:53 AM

The high performing International Baccalaureate middle school program that MPS board members and administration has been promising for the former Malcolm X Academy, 2760 N. 1st St., is an existing program.

The plan is to move Rufus King International School - Middle Years Campus, currently housed in the former McNair Elementary, at 4950 N. 24th St., in time for the start of the 2016 school year, according to a document that the district has discussed with King parents at two meetings over the past week.

The Malcolm X site, built in 1961, was designed to house Fulton Junior High School and will undergo a renovation that will create what the document promises will be, "state of the art" with a media center/library, full-size gym, large auditorium, modern science labs, outdoor performance and instruction area, and a large cafeteria.

The new space, the document notes, will allow the school to offer expanded music, art and foreign language offerings. It will also allow the school, which enrolled 418 last year, to expand, says Larry Miller, the board director in whose district the former Malcolm X site is located.

The McNair building, erected in 1953, has a capacity of 567 students, which doesn't leave King much room for growth.

"It will allow a larger enrollment, but we don’t know what those numbers are yet," said Miller of the plan, which has apparently been in the works for about a year. "But we couldn’t say anything publicly until we’d discussed it with the King families.

"This is a great opportunity for the district to have what will be a high-performing IB school in a building that will facilitate a middle school. The program right now is in an old elementary school."

A rendering of the facade at the former Malcolm X Academy. (Photo: Milwaukee Public Schools)

On its current Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction school report card, King IB Middle School earned a "needs improvement" rating. The school participates in the Alternative Accountability Process open to schools for a variety of reasons. The program is a feeder into the successful program at King high, which is consistently ranked as one of the top high schools in the state.

When I tweeted this news last night, a reply arrived from the King High PTSO (@RufusKingHSPTSO) saying, "Next step should be a NE side PYP (primary years program)."

This is, apparently, currently being explored by the district to help create a K-12 IB feeder system for the North Side that will mirror existing ones on the South Side (Lowell-Wedgewood-Reagan) and West Side (Hawley Environmental-MacDowell Montessori).

Meanwhile, Miller said the building will be a boon not just to King families, whose children will be in a modern, age-appropriate building and who will benefit daily from its many resources -- as will parents who will have a resource center at the school -- but also the surrounding community and nearby MPS schools, who will also have access.

"Schools like Holmes, like Fratney, like Pierce, like MLK, they don’t have access to the kind of auditorium (and other features) that will exist there," he told me this morning. "And for the community, too. There will be a whole variety of community resources that will exist, especially after school hours."

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.