School Board Hears Recommendation to Close Buildings
One elementary school and the West Bloomfield Schools administration building would be closed and possibly sold.
The West Bloomfield School Board is expected to consider a recommendation to cut costs and improve efficiency; including the closure of Ealy Elementary and the Administrative and Community Services (ACS) building, as heard at Monday night's board workshop.
Shannon Bingham, a representative of Western Demographics, the district's consultant in the School Enrollment and Facilities project, said that the district would save $725,000 annually in the scenario, one of several which was suggested. The recommendation comes from a total of 510 surveys taken at a series of six focus groups and two open houses conducted in the past month which consisted of parents from all of the district's schools, staff, and more.
The majority of schools in the district would be affected in some way if the recommendation was voted in favor of, but Ealy teachers spoke out on Monday asking the board to re-consider.
"Ealy is the largest (elementary school) building in the district. Why would we not utilize that?" said Cathy McCotter, a teacher and a parent of the district. "You're talking about consolidating ... we've pigeonholed ourselves into our smallest buildings."
Why close down?
The surveys questioned participants with the possibility of consolidation at the forefront of topics: a total of 36.8 percent of those polled would choose consolidation of underutilized buildings as a first priority out of five options in order to better-economize the district. As a second priority, 32.3 percent would consider consolidation.
Most of the scenarios involved the closure of one elementary in the Abbott Middle feeder pattern and another in the Orchard Lake Middle (OLMS) feeder pattern to preserve balance at the schools. Bingham points to Ealy as a school of which its' programs are generally easily-relocated and its' closure could result in an annually recurring savings of $500,000.
The school is recommended to close in fall 2013 before being mothballed for two years and finally sold. Autistic Spectrum Disorder students would move to Roosevelt Elementary, while grades 3-5 would move to Sheiko Elementary (which itself would be converted to only serve students in 3-5) and K-2 students to Doherty Elementary, which would be similarly converted.
Bingham said that the closures and re-adjustment would allow more district parents to benefit from grade alignments currently used at Scotch and Gretchko elementaries. Parents at those schools currently graduate their children to Abbott; Bingham's recommendation allows for parents in the OLMS feeder pattern to benefit.
Although the playground is in need of repairs and school administrators would be asked to work part-time for the district administration and part-time for Roosevelt, it is not a candidate for closure. Bingham said that the cost of moving special education students to another school nearby is cost-prohibitive and that a contract with Oakland Schools to maintain the Roosevelt program does not expire until 2027.
However, it is recommended to phase Roosevelt, a K-5 school, to only accept enough students for one class per grade level over a gradual course of five years starting in fall 2012.
A total of 71 percent of those polled do not believe the administration needs to be housed in a stand-alone building. Eighty-one percent agreed that consolidating the ACS should be considered.
The ACS building, located at the site of the old Scotch School house, would be closed, mothballed, and sold within two years under the recommendation. Offices would be moved to West Bloomfield High School, with an annual estimated savings of $140,000.
Preschool classes currently held there would be phased into different elementaries or simply phased out all together, allowing the business to go into the private or church preschool sector, according to Bingham.
A final report is expected to be given to the board in late June prior to a decision. Bingham acknowledges the emotional reaction from parents, staff, students, teachers, and administrators in the wake of other cutbacks in recent years as a result of declining enrollment numbers and state funds.
"It's tough to look at these possibilities and not have an emotional reaction," he said, "But I think we've worked well together to maintain the district's goals and the concerns of the community."
The Oct. 5 student head count is 6,603.2, including full-time equated students (FTE), while the blended count was 6,617.72 FTE. The February 2011 count was 6,744.42 FTE.
For a look at Bingham's report, visit the district's website (PDF).