Help us produce this film documenting the racial, economic and political dynamics of school closure decisions through the case of Red Cedar School, East Lansing, MI.
Widening the Gap is a feature length film currently in production. There are three primary themes: 1) Documentation of the unique culture at Red Cedar school before it is dismantled, 2) Documentation of the series of controversial decisions made by the school district that led to targeting Red Cedar for closure, and 3) Comparison of this case with national trends regarding opportunity/achievement gap and school closure decisions.
1) Documentation of the unique culture at Red Cedar school before it is dismantled
Red Cedar Elementary School is a k-4 school in East Lansing, Michigan. Red Cedar is home to students from up to 49 nations with as many as 46 different language groups represented. Red Cedar students and families state that it is a unique cultural experience. While many schools struggle with meeting the needs of a diverse student population, the Red Cedar family has learned to celebrate the beauty of cultures from around the world working together. Red Cedar School is a working model of effective multicultural practices and should be supported, studied, and duplicated.
Every school day begins with morning celebration - where student cultures are celebrated. Flags from all nations adorn the halls. Every school year culminates in the International Festival of Cultures -- an event that has occurred for more than 25 years. At this highly attended festival, many students and their families dress in traditional clothing from their home countries. In the presence of a welcoming community, students sing songs in languages from around the world and perform traditional folk dances.
2) Documentation of the series of controversial decisions made by the school district that led to targeting Red Cedar for closure
In addition to documenting the extraordinarily positive and accepting culture present at Red Cedar Elementary we examine the series of controversial decisions by the East Lansing School Board and administrators in the East Lansing Public School District that led to the current incarnation of Red Cedar being chosen as a school to eliminate by 2014. We will examine claims of lack of transparency, social injustice, and alleged back room deals to try to parse out how this school was chosen in spite of recommendations from the board approved architectural firm, the board commissioned k-8 facilities committee, statements of support from the City of East Lansing, Michigan State University, and the votes of the citizens of East Lansing.
3) Comparison with national trends regarding opportunity/achievement gap and school closure decisions.
U.S. Department of Education data reveals that nationally, school closures disproportionately hurt Black and low-income students. How does East Lansing Public School's rhetoric about addressing gaps and educating all students line up with the actions taken?
Is Red Cedar really unique? Who stands to gain by closing the only walkable school for the students (many from lower socioeconomic status households) on the south side of East Lansing? How was Red Cedar really chosen as the school to close? What impact will closing Red Cedar have on the families on the south side of East Lansing? What impact will it have on international students? Students of color? How might this story add to the discussions on the national issues of achievement gap and school closures?
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