Webster Secondary School is now once again Webster Middle School.
Webster Secondary School is now once again Webster Middle School. (Photo: Edgar Mendez, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service)

Webster returns to its former status as a traditional middle school

After considering closing Daniel Webster Secondary School altogether, just a couple weeks after starting its first school year, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors voted last Thursday to "reconfigure" the program as a traditional middle school.

Webster, 6850 N. 53rd St., had been a middle school until 2007, when it closed. Most recently, the building was leased to Universal Academy for the College Bound, run by a Philadelphia charter operator launched by former Philly soul pioneer Kenny Gamble.

Universal abruptly closed the grades 6-10 program in April and the building was returned to the district – just months after it returned two other buildings to MPS – which re-opened Webster as a program for students in grades 6-11. (Grade 12 was to be added next year.)

At the time, enrollment was about 650. But, this year, enrollment was low – reportedly at just 40 percent of projections as of last week – and the district moved to close it, saying it couldn't provide the resources necessary to run the school with such a low enrollment.

"MPS is committed to ensuring that all children have the highest quality education possible and every chance for success," said MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver, in a statement. "Webster’s enrollment was not sufficient enough to provide the robust academic programs every student in Milwaukee Public Schools deserves. This was a difficult, but necessary decision."

The school board disagreed, however, and voted, 9-0, to keep the school open, but as a traditional middle school. All enrolled students in grades 6-8 were told they could remain at the school or select a new school, while 9-11 graders were alerted that they must enroll in another high school program.

"MPS will ensure that students have the best educational option and will work with families to select the most appropriate school available," the district said in a statement.

"The district will continue dialogue with families and the school community to get feedback throughout this process. The MPS administration will report back to the board by November on the progress of the newly reconfigured middle school."

If families have questions they are encouraged to call the school at (414) 206-0500.

Will the enrollment be sufficient to fund a proper school budget at Webster? Or will the district have to provide funds to prop up the program for this year? Does the program have a future beyond this year? We'll hear more about Webster in November, when administration is due to report back to the board on the school's situation.

In the meantime, I hope that students leaving the program will find a good fit quickly, and that students who stay will have the resources necessary to succeed.

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