St. Marcus Lutheran School announced today that it hopes to purchase the former Malcolm X School building from Milwaukee Public Schools to create a second St. Marcus school campus.
“This vision and a second campus is centered around the needs of our children and our neighborhood,” said Henry Tyson, superintendent of St. Marcus School. “We have worked very hard to establish a successful model of urban education in Milwaukee and are so proud to help children and families from urban neighborhoods break the cycle of poverty and move on to achieve academic success at the post-secondary level and beyond. We want to do anything we can to help more central city students become high achieving learners.”
Although St. Marcus has previously held discussions with MPS officials about acquiring the former school, the two education entities are not currently engaged in talks to drive the transaction forward.
According to Tyson, St. Marcus approached MPS officials this past school year about purchasing a vacant building. Dr. Gregory Thornton, superintendent of MPS schools, encouraged Tyson to write to his office with a formal request for purchase, Tyson said. St. Marcus requested the purchase of one of three vacant school structures. The request was submitted to the Milwaukee Board of School Directors in a closed session and was subsequently denied.
St. Marcus is continuing to move forward with its proposal because it knows “the community desperately needs another high performing school,” Tyson said.
While St. Marcus is trying to rally public support for its plans for the former school, MPS is developing other plans.
“Our decisions about buildings are based upon what is in the best interest of taxpayers, Milwaukee families and the entire community,” said MPS spokesman Tony Tagliavia. “We have been planning for the future of this property since the development of our Facilities Master Plan in 2011. The Milwaukee Board of School Directors has been working on a use for Malcolm X with community partners and will vote Tuesday on developing the site into a Community Resource Center. This is nothing new. The Board has been working on the concept of Community Resource Centers in unused buildings for about a year.”
The former Malcolm X School is located at North 1st Street and Center Street, just four blocks north of the school’s current campus at 2215 N. Palmer St. in Milwaukee. MPS closed the Malcolm X School about six years ago.
St. Marcus School is a Christian, college-prep school serving 730 predominantly low-income African-American students from K3-8th grade.
St. Marcus estimates it would invest $5 million-$8 million into the school building to create a new campus and would hire more than 100 new staff members.
Proposed to open in August 2014 for the start of the 2014-15 school year, a St. Marcus north campus would serve more than 600 additional children in grades K4-8 from the neighborhood and the surrounding community, and another 300 children in an early childhood development center, the school said.
A second St. Marcus school campus would also potentially act as a vehicle for other positive developments to bridge the two campuses, the school said.
“Our vision is to work with other neighborhood partners and organizations to bring additional needed services such as safe, affordable housing and access to health care to the neighborhood,” said Matt Burow, adviser to St. Marcus and president of Catalyst Construction.
The collaborative partnership and additional development could bring an additional investment of $12 million-$15 million to the immediate area, the school said. Collaborative partnerships that are being considered as part of St. Marcus’ long-term growth plan would potentially provide: creation of 30-80 units of new affordable housing; the rehabilitation of 20 units of housing; home ownership expertise and opportunities for school and community families; an on-site health clinic with services focused on preventative health practices; health education specifically relating to parenting and family health; referrals to other health providers; and on-site access to mental health and counseling services.
St. Marcus currently has more than $1 million in pledges from supporters interested in supporting a north campus and plans to raise additional funds through a comprehensive campaign.
“This second campus would extend the great work of St. Marcus in the Milwaukee community,” said Maria Lopez Vento, vice president of programs and partnerships at the Helen Bader Foundation and donor to St. Marcus. “We believe that every child should have the opportunity to thrive, but Milwaukee has lagged behind our peer cities in many critical measures, which affects all of us who want a vibrant, healthy region. It takes many dedicated people and organizations to keep our children inspired and on track, and St. Marcus has a proven record of enhancing educational achievement in our central city neighborhoods, giving its students the tools and the mindset to succeed.”
St. Marcus’ growth plans also include a $13.5 million campus expansion project at its current location. The school held a dedication ceremony in June for its expansion project, which has been named the B. Bruce Krier Center. The addition, encompassing 14,000 square feet, will act as a multipurpose space for the school, filling gymnasium, auditorium and performance functions for students and the broader St. Marcus community.