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Community Feedback

February 23, 2010

Last night we hosted a community forum to discuss building reconfiguration options related to the closing of Houghton School.  These are difficult and complex decisions that require feedback from a variety of sources.  The 35 member committee that has been tasked with developing a recommendation to deliver to the Board of Education in March has been busy gathering and reviewing information.  Many of the committee members were present at the meeting to listen firsthand to the community comments and questions.  I would like to thank them for their time and effort.

At the meeting I was again struck by how important it is to have the engaged participation of the community.  I feel fortunate to be in a district that has involved community members willing to come out on a cold winter night and discuss these important issues.

Today, Mr. Steve Laatsch sent out the following email…

Last night, February 22nd, we had a very good turnout at the community forum to discuss the proposed plans for building reconfiguration for the 2010/11 school year and beyond.  It was great to see so many people passionate about the financial and educational implications surrounding our district.  At the meeting, the following three proposed plans were discussed.

1) K-3 at Woodland Meadows, Harvest, and Pleasant Ridge, 4-5 at Heritage, 6-8 at Middle School, 9-12 at High School *#
2) K-4 at Woodland Meadows, Harvest, and Pleasant Ridge, 5-6 at Heritage, 7-8 at Middle School, 9-12  at High School *#
3) Pre-K programs and Kindergarten at Harvest, 1-5 at Woodland Meadows, Pleasant Ridge, and Heritage, 6-8 at Middle School, 9-12  at High School #

* In either plan 1 or 2 PreK programs such as Pooh Corner, ECSE, Early On, Early School, and EDO would be distributed into various buildings which could include Liberty School
# In all of these plans, we are also looking at moving Central Administration and Community Education offices and the Alternative Education High School out of Union and into Liberty School

The purpose of the forum was to provide a progress report on the Building Reconfiguration Committee’s task of cost containment and building consolidation. In addition, we asked for input and a chance for the community to ask questions about the proposed plans.  There were many good questions asked and a great deal of input provided throughout the meeting.

Again, we recognize that none of the proposed plans are perfect. In fact, we feel that our current configuration meets our educational needs very well.  However, the financial impact of closing a building, in this case Houghton Elementary School, is too significant to delay any longer.

It was suggested that we provide a survey to ask parents which plan they prefer.   Although, a survey would provide some information as to what plan the community prefers, it would be very difficult for us to describe the multiple variables that surround all of these plans in such a survey. Therefore, we believe it would be more beneficial for parents and community members to provide input by emailing us your thoughts, ideas, concerns, and so forth about any of these proposed plans.

We value this input and will be compiling a document that captures all of the community feedback.

Please feel free to email me, Steve Laatsch, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services, to provide further input at laatschs@saline.k12.mi.us OR you may call me at 429-8002.
In addition, there were several requests from the community who asked to know who is serving on the Building Reconfiguration Committee. This list is included below.

Building Reconfiguration Committee Chairs
Steve Laatsch, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services
Kim Van Hoek, Trustee, Foundation for Saline Area Schools

Saline Area Schools Staff- Committee Members
Doug Bacon – Buildings and Ground Director
Russ Ernest – 6th Grade Teacher
David Friese – Saline Area Schools Board President
Patti Henes – Transportation Director
Heather Kellstrom – Director of Instructional Technology
Wanda Killips – Woodland Meadows Elementary Principal
Sheila Light, Pleasant Ridge Elementary Principal
Carole London, Paraeducator, Houghton School
John Mason, Music Teacher at Heritage and Music Coordinator of the District
Peggy McEvoy, Media Center Specialist, Woodland Meadows Elementary
Luana Putz, Houghton Secretary
David Raft, Middle School Principal
Betty Rosen-Leacher, Heritage School Principal
Kristen Schwartzenberger, 2nd Grade Teacher, Pleasant Ridge
Les Sharon, Harvest Elementary School Principal
Julie Spitler, Social Studies Teacher, Middle School
Jesse Stevenson, Houghton Elementary School Principal
Mary Jane Tramotin, 4th Grade Teacher, Pleasant Ridge
Cherie Vannatter, Elementary Special Education Director
Nancy Zebrowski, Houghton Elementary School Teacher

Community Members
Michael Bernbeck
Todd Campbell
Rebecca Carter
Judy Collins
Pam Dahlman
Laurie Dawson
Heidi Evans
Cheryl Hoeft
Swatee Kulkarni
Tracy Loveland
Lisa Rentschler
Venkat Saripalli
Carl Vannatter

Thank you very much for your continued involvement in the Saline Area Schools.  We recognize that parent support is critical to the success of our students.

If you were unable to attend the meeting, or want to share more information please contact Mr. Laatsch.

Click here to download a copy of the presentation slides from last night.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Kelly Saiya-Cork permalink
    February 25, 2010 9:30 am

    As the mother of a 2010-11 kindergarten, I am very pleased to see this process moving forward.

    My first set of questions is for grade K.

    Are there liscensing and/or accredidation issues that make it more economically feasible for all K classes to be in one school versus several?

    Is it more economically feasible to have all preschool and grade K classes in one school?

    Is Liberty School physically capable to meet building requirements for pre-K and K students as it is currently set up?

    If Liberty School is not currently able to take pre-K and K students, the what renovation costs are involved in moving those class to Liberty? (industrial hygiene testing [asbestos, mold, lead etc] + contractors + fixtures + materials])

    Thank you for encouraging continued communication and dialogue.

  2. Steve Laatsch permalink
    February 25, 2010 10:09 am

    Kelly,

    Licensing and/or accreditation would not be an issue.

    Whenever an entire group of grade level is housed in one location it does technically make more financial sense. When an entire grade level is all together you have the ability to maximize class size (if you wanted to do that) and therefore might need less teachers to provide instruction. In addition, all your support materials are in one location. Take the library for example. If you have Kindergarten, or any grade level for that matter, spread out amongst three buildings, you typically would need more books in the three libraries than in a single library at the Kindergarten building to support the same number of students.

    Liberty School is currently set up to handle any level of students. In 1997 a complete renovation and repair was completed at Liberty School. At this time, the building also went through an asbestos and mold inspection. However, if younger students like those in Pre-K and K programs were to move in to the building, we might very well want to do some renovations to make the facility more user friendly to such an age group. Things like putting in smaller toilets would be an example. Much of this could be paid for through sinking fund dollars.

    Steve Laatsch

  3. Kelly Saiya-Cork permalink
    February 28, 2010 6:26 pm

    Just wondering why Liberty school isn’t being considered for more uses? Is it smaller than the other elementary school? Are there issues regarding maintenance that can not be fiscally solved in this budget crisis?

    Will moving the Alternative School to Liberty provide a better learning environment for those students? Would this allow them to have a more diverse curriculum than they presently have?

    Is it feasible to use Liberty for any other grades?

    Just wondering.

    Thanks.

  4. February 28, 2010 6:39 pm

    Liberty is larger than the other elementary buildings, however, the design is based on use as a high school. In the 50+ years of use since it was built, it has never housed students younger than 6th grade. For example, unlike the other elementary buildings, there are not bathrooms in each room. In general, the overall “scale” is bigger. With that said, it could be used for variety of other uses. As it is located on a campus with three other buildings – it has an advantageous location.

    Based on the proposed options we are likely to be moving central office administration, community education and the alternative high school to Liberty. For the alternative high school the larger facility has some advantages over their current location at Union School. However, there have not been discussions about curricular adjustments based on the likely move.

  5. Kim permalink
    March 6, 2010 8:19 am

    I have heard that if Heritage is used for 4/5 as in Option 1 that the 5th grade will no longer have the option to take Band/Orchestra/Creative Arts — is this true? Does this also mean that they will also no longer be offered the foreign language class which I believe was started this year?

  6. March 6, 2010 8:35 am

    Decisions regarding the elective schedule has not been made related to the building configuration. In the past, when we had K-5 buildings band & orchestra were offered in a “zero hour” format.

  7. Kelly Saiya-Cork permalink
    March 20, 2010 11:37 am

    Can you please define the term “zero hour”? Thank you.

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