West BloomfieldSeptember 7, 2012
Final school consolidation study recommends closures
By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer
WEST BLOOMFIELD — Classes have begun in the West Bloomfield School District this month, but a proposal under consideration could bring the end of at least one local school if school officials agree.
At an Aug. 27 Board of Education meeting, Shannon Bingham of Western Demographics Inc. revealed the final report of the School Enrollment and Facilities study. The study assessed the school district’s buildings and trends toward lower student enrollment to see whether money could be saved on consolidation.
According to Bingham, the district faces the same challenges as other school districts: In the past five or six years, an estimated 650 schools in Michigan have shut down, in part due to declining enrollments.
He said the report concluded that the West Bloomfield School District could gain from consolidating its buildings.
“We have enough students to operate four elementary schools, and we have six,” he said.
The report recommends closing down the district’s Administrative and Community Services building by June. The district’s administrators would move to a spot inside the high school, and early childhood programs for residents could be integrated into the existing elementary schools, Bingham said.
Meanwhile, the report recommended the closure of Ealy Elementary School by the fall of 2013 and the restructuring of other elementary schools to specialize in different grade levels. Doherty Elementary could become a K-two school, and Sheiko Elementary could become a school for grades three to five, Bingham said.
The report also explored the option of closing Roosevelt Elementary School in two to five years. “We are considering having two elementaries in the north and two elementaries in the south,” he said.
The district could also eventually consider allowing its two middle schools, Abbott and Orchard Lake, to accept fifth graders. The middle schools would segregate their students into a quarter for grades five to six and another one for grades seven to eight, meaning the two grade groups would be confined to a wing or designated space. “That would also pull some elementary students out of the elementaries,” Bingham said.
Special education programs in the elementary schools would also have to be relocated within those schools, he added.
The report’s options come with a price tag. For instance, building an area for administrators to work at the high school could cost $615,000 for interior renovations, plus $150,000 in moving costs, he said. The report also lists the cost of redeveloping special education classrooms at around $484,000.
However, consolidation also has its projected savings. For instance, closing the ACS building could save roughly $140,000 in annual operating costs, he said.
Bingham said an Ealy closure could save around $595,000 in annual operating costs and could save in future maintenance costs. Ealy has higher projected maintenance costs down the road — $3.8 million, compared with about $3.2 million for Doherty or Sheiko, he said.
Board of Education President Bruce Tobin declared beforehand that questions and debate on the report would wait until a Sept. 6 study session, after press time.
Superintendent Gerald Hill told the Beacon that he expects some sort of vote based on the report later in September.
Outside of the meeting, Roosevelt Principal Beth Feiten said Sept. 4, parents haven’t spoken to her about the most recent proposition to perhaps close Roosevelt someday — though she said the word might not have spread yet.
“We thought last year that Roosevelt was going to remain open,” she said. “I’m hoping that parents will come to the study session this Thursday and find out more information about it.”
Learn more about the West Bloomfield School District at www.wbsd.org or by calling (248) 865-6420.
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