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West Bloomfield School Board Considers Closing Schools

The West Bloomfield School District Board of Education listened to a final report from Western Demographics on school enrollment and facilities utilization.

Edited: 11 a.m., Aug. 28

To reflect updated costs for transportation

Schools may close in the West Bloomfield district after the Board of Education considers recommendations suggesting its enrollment is not high enough to fill all six elementary schools.

"We have enough students to operate four elementary schools and we have six," said Shannon Bingham, of ., who presented a school closure and redistribution plan to the board on Monday night at West Bloomfield High School. 

The district had a mild decline in enrollment in recent years, which is expected to continue, according to Bingham's research. Total school utilization is 80 percent and there are 3,276 empty seats in the district, according to his research.

Bingham's research indicates that five elementary schools, out of the six that are open, are needed until the end of school year in 2014 and four are needed after. 

Bruce Tobin, president of the board, said the board will wait to discuss the report and its recommendations until the next study session Sep. 6. The few people in the audience did not comment on the proposed plan.

The School Enrollment and Facilities Utilization (SEAF) report recommendations are to:

  • close the in June
  • close in fall of 2013
  • convert for kindergarten through second grades and have one south end boundary in fall of 2013
  • convert for grades third through fifth and have one south end boundary in fall of 2013
  • consider closing Roosevelt Elementary in two to five years
  • consider converting district middle schools to accommodate grades fifth through eighth
  • relocate special education and preschool programs as necessary

Southern District Changes

The change to two elementary schools in the southern region could result in a rise in transportation costs to a total of $49,600 because students who used to walk to a neighborhood school will now have to be bused, according to SEAF committee member Stacy Brickman.

"It doesn't matter which building we close, it'll be the same," Bruce Tobin, president of the board, said about the transportation costs.

The southern part of the district will likely see the most changes if the plan is approved. Breaking from tradition, students would attend school based on their grade, rather than their addresses. One school would be for students in grades kindergarten to second grade and the other would house those in third through eighth, Bingham said.

Building Closures and Changes

Bingham also proposed adding fifth grade to the middle school.

"About 19 percent of middle schools nationwide are five through eight as opposed to six through eight," he said.

He said this would be an opportunity to reduce enrollment at the elementary schools.

"Roosevelt is our oldest building," Bingham said.

The building, one of the schools considered for closure, was built in 1920.

Ealy Elementary, also considered for closure, has the highest maintenance needs of the schools, Bingham said.

Pros and Cons

Bingham included a list of pros and cons for some of the proposed changes:

Pros Cons ACS Closure
  • save $140,000 in annual operating budget
  • no need to upgrade ACS building ($2.3 million over five years)
  • one-time renovation and moving cost of $765,000
  • need to utilize every classroom as efficiently as possible to accommodate preschool classes
Ealy Closure
  • save $685,200 in annual operating budget
  • creation of K-2, 3-5 structure
  • development of single-attendance area in south portion of district
  • $484,059 in special education relocation costs
  • $49,600 in transportation costs

The next study session is Sep. 6 at 7 p.m. in the West Bloomfield High School Media Center. The board is expected to make its final decision on those recommendations on Sep. 24.

Sandy Colvin August 29, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Dear Concerned WB Resident: Unfortunately, class sizes have been increasing in school districts throughout Michigan over the last few years. A school closure and consolidation does not mean class sizes are going to be increased - why do you believe it will increase? By consolidating schools, I am hoping the school district will be saving money to ensure that class sizes do not increase.
Louise Cantor August 29, 2012 at 09:57 PM
This is simple math. If the student population continues to decline then the teacher population would drop as well. The other scenario would be limited capacity at Green and Doherty when Ealy is closed. Ealy is the larger facility and therefore could absorb temporary bumps in enrollment for specific grades. So It appears as though bond money has been wasted on upgrades at Ealy and Roosevelt. Besides, Why would Ealy need so many upgrades when the board has asked voters for bond money every four years. Was Ealy the Cinderella of the district?
Sandy Colvin August 30, 2012 at 01:14 AM
The student population is continuing to decline in West Bloomfield and throughout Oakland County. The projections of the demographic reports show continuous declines over the next five years for resident students and nonresident students alike. Ealy is a larger facility than Sheiko and Doherty however if it remains open (and instead a different south end building is closed), the demographic projections show that due to the decline in school age children in Oakland County, within five years Ealy would be underutilized (% of student enrollment to building capacity). The spreadsheet prepared by the Architects shows that within the next five years, Ealy needs the following uprades: $3,405,000 for a central chiller, $150,000 for boilers, $50,000 for masonry repair, $132,000 for ceiling work for the central chiller and $75,000 for windows. The five year maintenance projections for the other elementary schools are $3,145,000 for Doherty, $3,255,000 for Sheiko and $2,500,000 for Roosevelt. The cost estimates include replacement of the central chiller at these buildings as well.
Louise Cantor August 30, 2012 at 03:40 AM
So bond money for Ealy and Roosevelt was wasted because the board ignored the reality of future enrollment drops. The maintenance projections for Doherty, Green and Ealy make the cost differential to close Ealy insignifant. So the upgrades are not the real issue here.
Sandy Colvin August 30, 2012 at 04:34 AM
The five year maintenance projections (upgrades) for Ealy are $3,812,000 versus a) $3,145,000 for Doherty ($667,000 differential) and b) $3,255,000 for Sheiko ($557,000 differential). Enrollment projections, maintenance projections, location of buildings, size and types of classrooms, common areas, and instruction were considered. The Architects prepared a Conditions Inventory Summary analyzing each building covering site adequacy, site condition, vehicular, pedestrian, building adequacy, building exterior condition, and building interior condition. Many surrounding school districts (Bloomfield Hills, Farmington Hills and Walled Lake to name a few) have all closed buildings in the last few years due to enrollment decline.
stacy brickman August 30, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Interesting article from USAtoday (8-2-2012). Population loss, economy drive Midwest school closings. Michigan school districts have closed 677 schools in the last 5 years. We were the leaders, followed by Minnesota 626 and Ohio 391.
Louise Cantor August 30, 2012 at 12:44 PM
This is a capacity issue for today and future enrollment. Spin doesn't work here. And it does not work in the cost/savings analysis in the decision to relocate ACS. Close one south end school and one north end school. Avoid all of the alterations ( $$$) to Roosevelt when it appears from future enrollment projections that closing Roosevelt can not be avoided.
Concerned WB Resident August 30, 2012 at 01:31 PM
"I am hoping the school district will be saving money." @Sandy- For years, the Administration and Board have hoped that Lansing would give more money, hoped that Schools of Choice would work, etc... Hope isn't a strategy. I'm sure any money saved will be spent before the monthly bank statement reflects the balance.
Anna Martin September 01, 2012 at 09:22 PM
To "Louise Cantor" (and we all know who you really are): Your goal, for countless years, has been to bash WBSD. Your priority appears to be to criticize just about everything, with no true grasp of the realities of business and of running a school district. Mrs. Colvin has given you accurate numbers (twice here) based on her participation on the SEAF committee and and on the report of the firm hired to do the research. That should be adequate for anyone. Please stop trying to cause trouble. Enough is enough!
Louise Cantor September 03, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Your insults will not change the capacity of Ealy nor will your insults change the reality of large sums of taxpayer bond money wasted on school buildings that should have been closed years ago. I am asking that the district not waste more bond dollars on altering Roosevelt when we all know that two schools have to be closed given the demographer's enrollment projections. Enough is enough!
Richard Gold September 04, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I have been following these posts and other posts regarding the WBSD since The Patch began publishing. Thanks to Tim and his staff for providing news and an outlet for discussion. Three points I must share here and now: 1. I LOVE "Louise Cantor"! Even if she's a fiction, her voice represents so many people in the WBSD. Her ideas are brave, thoughtful and factual. Keep it up Louise, whoever you are--you speak for the silent majority in this community who elected Carol Finkelstein, and came close to electing John Reed last year (and will elect him this year). 2. It is so ironic that "Anna Martin" and others writing under fake names criticize "Louise" for doing the same and write using a plural pronoun! "We" know who you are too-LOL! 3. The real issues with the SEAF studies are these: We all know that those steering this committee have strong ties to Doherty and there is no way that Doherty was going to be closed. LOL! We all have known for years that schools need to be closed in the WBSD yet it took thousands of dollars we don't have, uncountable hours and manpower, and more money wasted to reach these recommendations. LOL! We all know that we could close MORE schools if our schools’ seats weren't filled with choice kids, seats that should have been closed years ago. LOL! Where were the demographers 10 years ago? 5 years ago? 3 years ago? LOL!
Sandy Colvin September 04, 2012 at 05:04 PM
There is a School Board Study Session this Thursday night, September 6th, at 7:00 at the Media Center at West Bloomfield High School where there will be further discussions as to why Ealy was recommended for closure on the south end of the school district. I would appreciate any feedback from you, the community, teachers, staff, parents, etc... as to why you feel Ealy should remain open and why instead, you would recommend that Doherty or Sheiko be closed. Thank you for posting your opinions.
Louise Cantor September 04, 2012 at 10:34 PM
That is absolutely correct. The steering committee consists of members that have strong ties to Doherty and one also works for WBSD's school board member, David Einstandig. This is not to say that Doherty should close instead of the former Green School or Ealy but the conclusion to close Ealy seems biased.
Richard Gold September 05, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Sandy Colvin, you are not a teacher, an administrator, a Board member or even a parent of children currently in the school district. You publicly opposed opposed choice years ago but for all the wrong reasons. You ran and lost school board elections. Let's hear from the Board, THE decision makers.
Sandy Colvin September 05, 2012 at 03:10 AM
I am the committee member on the SEAF project who works with WBSD's school board member David Einstandig. I am an attorney (licensed to practice since 1989) and a CPA (since 1984). I have worked at the law firm of Thav Gross in Bingham Farms for 2 years, 8 months on corporate and commercial litigation matters. Since February, 1995 when my oldest son started kindergarten, I have been an involved parent at the school building and/or the district level, volunteering my time and serving on committees throughout the school district. My children all attended Doherty Elementary (youngest child completed Doherty in June, 2003) and graduated from WBSD in 2010. At the Thursday evening School Board Study Session, members of the SEAF Committee will have an opportunity to participate in the discussions about the recommendations and respond to questions. I hope that the community will be open minded and not assume that the recommendation to close Ealy is biased because individuals serving on the SEAF Committee had students who attended certain school buildings and/or work with, are friends with, and/or know members of the WB School Board. This project has been very challenging and the volunteers on the SEAF Committee and School Board members have worked very hard (I believe I have spent 200 to 300 hours on this project) - attending meetings, analyzing data and documents, speaking with the Consultant, etc... trying to ensure we are making the best decisions for the school district.
Louise Cantor September 05, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Lessons learned from watching broadcasted board meetings: 1). Ealy has a higher capacity than Doherty and the former Green School . 2). The identified high maintenance cost of keeping Ealy open over the other two south end schools flattens/ levels off when the enhanced educational uses of the larger environment is taken into account. This would be true for the special needs students and all other students. 3). Special education experts have spoken at the board meetings. The communication is clear; moving these students several times is unhealthy for them. Also, there will be limited inclusion/interactions with other students given the new make-up of Roosevelt School. 4). Traffic congestion on Walnut Lake road is going to be a nightmare. And Walnut Lake Road needs to be removed. And finally, 5). I do not want to be subjected to the board's rude behavior because they may not like what I have to say. They do this either in front of the camera or out in the community. Ms. Colvin was a victim of this behavior years ago for her opposition to "schools of choice". I am pleased that she acknowledges that board member Einstandig is her boss, that she is a close friend to another, and that she is the proud parent alumnus of Doherty Elementary School. So, it is plausible for community members to question her objectivity.
Richard Gold September 05, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Again, Sandy Colvin, you are not a teacher, an administrator, a Board member or even a parent of children currently in the school district. You publicly opposed choice years ago but for all the wrong reasons. You ran and lost school board elections. Let's hear from the Board, THE decision makers. You also chaired the Visionary Strategy" committees, which spent hours of meeting time, more fact gathering, and created barely a bandage on the gaping wound known as the school district's finances. Congratulations! Your work may finally save our district some money. But, as usual, it's too little, too late. Your self-promotion is irrelevant to this discussion. Unless you are running for office, again. As your colleague "Anna Martin" stated, "Enough is enough."
Sandy Colvin September 05, 2012 at 07:10 PM
After the May WB School Board Study Session and School Board meeting where special education teachers and parents voiced their concerns about relocating the special education programs from Ealy to Roosevelt, the SEAF committee had numerous meetings with the special education teachers and the school district's special education director to address everyone's concerns and developed a new proposal which were included in the Final Report issued by the Consultant for the August School Board meeting. The August Report included the following recommendations: 1) Move Autistic Spectrum Disorder program from Ealy to Sheiko and Doherty (Doherty currently has Autistic Program on site); 2) Move Early Intervention and Early Childhood from Ealy to Gretchko; 3) Move Level program (kindergarten and 1st grade) from Ealy to Gretchko and 4) Move Cognitive Impaired program from Ealy to Roosevelt. Additionally, the Level program currently at Sheiko (grades 2nd through 5th grade) would be moved to Scotch. The Consultant's Final Report dated August 24, 2012 is available on WBSD's website.
Louise Cantor September 06, 2012 at 06:36 AM
This sounds very convoluted. Thank goodness there are people out there advocating for the special needs students because historically your advocacy has been focused on differentiated learning to benefit the advanced students. The changes don't sound beneficial. The changes sound necessary to fit the board's end goal of closing Ealy. For years the board has said that closing any other south end school would be a political nightmare. They refused to make the tough budget and policy decisions so a building closing(s) was delayed by a cool decade. The pending traffic nightmare and the capacity issue continue to stick out like a sore thumb.
Sandy Colvin September 06, 2012 at 12:10 PM
The proposal to move the special education program results in the following: 1) the Autistic Spectrum Disorder program will be at Doherty (kindergarten through 2nd) and Sheiko (3rd through 5th); 2) the Level program will be at Gretchko (kindergarten and 1st) and Scotch (2nd through 5th); 3) Early Intervention and Early Childhood at Gretchko and 4) Cognitive Impaired at Roosevelt (kindergarten through 5th). The "grades" at each building are consistent with the grades for the general student population at those buildings. Scotch and Gretchko currently do not have any special programs; Roosevelt currently has the STEPS program. WB School District is working on addressing the traffic concerns about Walnut Lake Road. Doherty has 29 classrooms and Sheiko has 31. Based on current enrollment, the Consultant has stated that the school district needs 21 to 24 classes in two south end buildings (7 or 8 classrooms per grade). If 24 classes per building are needed in 2 south end buildings, there remains 5 classrooms at Doherty and 7 classrooms at Sheiko that can house special education programs and preschool programs. Ealy has 36 classrooms and based on the projections, the Consultant has advised that it will be significantly undercapacity if left open. If you would like to speak with me to discuss the proposal, please call the Superintendent's office for my contact information or maybe you would like to meet with the Superintendent or the School Board SEAF members?
Louise Cantor September 06, 2012 at 06:12 PM
The last time a SEAF like committee was formed, the committee gave the wrong recommendation. They had run the numbers also but did not recommend a plan to close a school building(s).or any other responsible action to be meaningful and positively best for all of the district's students and the district's financial future. The fact that the SEAF committee and its paid consultant overlooked the needs of the special education students in it's June 25th presentation frankly frightens me. And then to not have an answer for the traffic congestion or to understand that a building's educational usefulness is more than raw numbers is unfortunate. The problem is that when you have a predetermined outcome, the end result is not always as dynamic as it can be. I will be watching the study session tonight on cable TV.
Sandy Colvin September 06, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Lousie: I was not a member of the committee that was formed years ago so I am unable to comment on their findings. The Consultant worked with the Special Education Director prior to the May Board presentations (there was no presentation on June 25th). The presentation made by the Consultant in May was the Consultant's recommendation (not a recommendation of the entire SEAF Committee). The Community was encouraged to comment on the Consultant's recommendation and did so at the May and June School Board meetings. The SEAF Committee then met numerous times from June through August to reevaluate the Consultant's recommendation about the location of the special education programs and revised the proposals based on feedback from the Special Education Director, teachers, staff, parents, etc... The purpose of all of these public meetings is to obtain input and feedback so we can address potential issues. The administrators, teachers and staff have participated in discussions relating to the educational usefulness of the buildings and that information is being shared with the SEAF Committee. As stated in prior postings, there are many factors being considered in the recommendation, not just raw numbers. Glad that to hear that you will be watching the study session tonight on cable TV, I hope all of your concerns are addressed.
Louise Cantor September 07, 2012 at 12:50 PM
The SEAF Committee works as a whole team, not separately when glaring mistakes are made. Your name is attached to this one so I would hope that you are wise enough to ask good questions when reviewing the consultants recommendations regarding all matters related to the school closings and educational disadvantages/advantages. As a member of the SEAF Committee you represent all students. The meeting was not aired last night. I am sure many people in attendance had the same concerns that I have raised. I will be watching the Patch for an update.
WBresidentsforchange September 07, 2012 at 01:50 PM
With no clear connections or endorsements with the current school board, John Reed represents not more of the same, but the real, critical change that West Bloomfield desperately needs. John’s 27 year career as a special educator, coach and community leader brings much needed educational experience to this board. John Reed will be a committed voice for all members of the West Bloomfield School community, students, parents and staff. It’s time for change, it’s time for real experience, and it’s time for something new. John Reed represents this. We will be voting for John and encourage all to do the same. WBresidentsforchange.
KAT September 15, 2012 at 02:02 PM
If John represents the "real, critical change", why has he not participated or even attended meetings regarding the closing of our schools, changing the format for elementary schools to separate K-2 and 3-5 schools? Where has John been when the community participated in the budget cutting? During the turmoil last year,I recall his wife crying at a meeting that if her salary were cut, they could lose their house. While that may be a sad reality of our times, that many of us have had to deal with, the School Board has to do whatever is necessary to provide the best education for our children. Their duty is to our kids first!!! John is a nice guy, probably an excellent teacher, but how do we reconcile that his wife is a teacher IN OUR DISTRICT? He had the endorsement of the Union. His sole mission seems to be to protect the teachers...not to do what is best for kids!! With our District's anticipated continued cuts from Lansing, how will he be objective in making necessary cuts (when over 80% of the Districts funds are spent on wages and benefits and is frequently the target of savings)??? Our School Board does not lack adequate "educational experience"; it needs fiscally responsible individuals who can make the tough decisions that are ahead in order to continue to provide the best opportunities for our children!!!
Mike Jones September 15, 2012 at 08:13 PM
John Reed was the first and only community member to have the courage to speak openly and recommend the school closings now taking place. He was the first and only person to speak openly in the community about the districts financial mismanagement with its' fund equity balance in relationships to other districts around us. Where was John Reed? He was the one who led the charge to make the tough decisions ! Get your facts straight ! John has 4 kids who have or currently attend our schools. To say John is not committed to all kids is outrageous. 27 years as a teacher and coach says everything. Name one board member who has devoted a lifetime to kids and education. His educational experience will prove invaluable to this community. The community needs to understand that great teachers are leaving the district at an alarming rate. John's support from and for the teachers can build the bridges necessary to rebuild the trusting relationships lost between teachers and the district. If we truly want the best education for our kids, we need our excellent teachers to want to stay. John is the only candidate who can do this for the community.
KAT September 15, 2012 at 09:28 PM
I am sure John is a very committed parent. But you confuse his career (that he is paid for) with his commitment to our School District. I am told that John sometimes attends his children's conferences/open houses but takes no active role in activities that don't involve his own children directly such as PTO, PCN, finance committees, bond committee's, etc..... I don't recall John ever leading any charge. He didn't even attend the study session for review of the recommendations regarding closing a school.....that you say was his idea.....I do not question John's commitment to the excellent teachers, like his wife, only have trouble reconciling where his priorities are....all kids or teachers. If I remember correctly another teachers husband is also on the Board (Chase) and he voted NO to imposing a contract when the teachers were demanding raises and could not settle the contract. Do you believe stacking the Board with spouses of staff is healthy for our District??? It is tough to be impartial when your own wallet suffers!!
Mary Barnes September 15, 2012 at 11:17 PM
John has had deep roots in this community for 37 years. His children have attended these schools from K-12. His oldest was in the 1st graduating class from Gretchko Elementary. He is not six years new to the community. His wife was extremely active on PTO, PCN and bond committee's for years and John was an active supporter for the district. Does membership on parent driven committees truly provide the qualifications to make important educational decisions regarding our students. With teaching experience and qualifications at all levels of K-12 education and a true understanding of how students learn best in today's classrooms,John provides real world educational experience our kids need. I for one have had enough of the good ol'boys and girls clubs running our schools. It's time for a real educator. Apparently in West Bloomfield its not about what you know "education", but who you know, "current school board members". West Bloomfield can do better, we owe our children more.
Marne Wallace September 16, 2012 at 11:40 AM
John has lived in this community for 37 years. His kids started attending our schools 20 years ago. He is not 6 years new to the community. His oldest was in the 1st class at Gretchko Elementary. His wife was incredibly active for years on PTO, PCN's and Bond committees. John was always an active supporter of district efforts as well. Is participation on these committees the only way we choose school board members? Do these experiences really prepare people to make educational decisions about all of our kids ? John has 27 years of real educational experience teaching at all levels k-12. He is a professional educator. For my kids, I want someone who truly understands educationally what our students need to be successful in school. It seems like in this district when it comes to selecting school board members, its not what you know "education", but who you know "school board members". It seems like some kind of social club. I want a truly qualified person making decisions about my kids. I for one am tired of board members with no formal educational qualifications, joining school committees, and through secret endorsements becoming school board members. My kids and yours deserve better.
Westbloomfield Weinstein September 22, 2012 at 01:44 AM
I am sure I represent many readers who do not write in, but I am tired of the complaining and misinformation by many writers. The patch tries to be a forum of conversation and professional articulate consumers. Now let's say in theory we have one writer who consistently complains about our city council, our school board trustees, our active educated committee members, or any public figures HOWEVER the public figures are re-elected. Is she representing the majority as she claims? Is she smarter than the majority of our voters? The electorate has spoken numerous times. Now let's say this hypothetical person, let's just call her Louise or Judy for simplistic reasons. If Judy is so much smarter than everyone, why doesn't she do her civic duty and run for office? Maybe because she knows then publicly it will be a referendum on her views not representing the public. When public non paid figures spend their time doing what they feel is right, those that complain and do nothing, well.......they are just that complainers who are never happy with anything. Get a life!

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