The Mark Twain School for Literary Scholars stands like a fortress in southwest Detroit.
The two-story brick and stone building has room for 1,400 children, but last year educated just 231.
Thousands of families have left the city in the last decade. Many still live in this borough in the shadow of the Marathon refinery but send their children to school elsewhere.
The neighborhood around Mark Twain is surrounded on three sides by suburban schools districts, all of which vie for Detroit children.
The districts of River Rouge, Ecorse, Lincoln Park and Melvindale sit just blocks away and offer perks such as tutoring, foreign language classes and smaller class sizes. Collectively, all four districts enrolled 917 Detroit children last year.
Overall, less than half of the city’s school-age children attend Detroit Public Schools, where enrollment has been falling for nearly 50 years.
DPS officials are hoping to stem that trend this summer by convincing 5,000 new students to enroll at one of the district’s 94 schools, making up for what demographers project will be a loss of 4,500 students. The district has sent principals and volunteers into neighborhoods across the city to find and recruit children.