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Madison Heights

February 14, 2013

Madison district announces plans to consolidate schools

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

MADISON HEIGHTS — Madison District Public Schools is planning a massive $11.4 million undertaking that won’t cost taxpayers a single penny and, with voter approval, will result in the consolidation of two elementary schools, the middle school and high school in one central location at 11 Mile and Hales.

Residents are invited to learn more during a presentation in the Madison High auditorium at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 13, followed by a special board meeting in the Wilkinson Middle School media center Feb. 25, where trustees are expected to unanimously approve a ballot option for the new campus in the May 7 election.

What would change
The consolidation includes an extensive renovation of the 65,000-square-foot Schoenhals building at 27101 Hales, where Edison Elementary and Halfman Elementary would be relocated and merged as one.

The building currently includes Madison Preparatory Academy, previously named Community High, as well as the district’s Early Childhood Education program. The plan at the moment is to move Madison Prep to the old Edison building. The central administration building would be relocated to Edison, as well.

The consolidation also involves the construction of a new building behind the current Madison High School at 915 E. 11 Mile, where Wilkinson Middle School will be relocated. The district does not yet have specifications on the new middle school structure.   

A new entrance, east of the high school, will provide access to the new centrally located campus. Each building will have its own parking lot, with a network of roads connecting everything.

As for the old buildings, the district will retain ownership of them, repurposing them for educational and community use, generating new revenue for the district. Since the buildings won’t be used on a regular basis, they will also sharply reduce energy costs.

As for the new campus at 11 Mile and Hales, “Not everyone is coming here at once,” said Randy Speck, MDPS superintendent.

First Schoenhals will be reconstructed, followed by the consolidation of the elementary schools. Then the new middle school will be constructed, along with the surrounding campus.

“All of this is upcoming,” Speck said.

Cost and benefit
The consolidation, if approved by voters May 7, will not cost taxpayers one cent. Rather, the transfer of expiring debt millages will finance the $11.4 million school improvement bond issue.

“We were looking at either $19 million in repairs just to maintain the older buildings, or investing less money in what is basically a brand new model,” said Albert Morrison, president of the Madison Board of Education.  

The benefits, he said, are many. One major advantage is increased safety.

“It gives us the opportunity to be more attentive to security in all of these buildings, which is a national issue,” Morrison said, noting that there would be more people to respond, more quickly, in the event of an emergency. “I want families to know we’ve done absolutely everything we possibly can to make sure these kids are going to the safest place on Earth, besides their home.”

Also of concern is the district’s use of space. More than a year ago, the school district underwent a building utilization study, and found that the district uses only 40 percent of its available space.

“So, going forward,” Speck said, “we wanted to lay out a plan that was more energy efficient, and that would serve us in a fiscally responsible manner, while at the same time providing a 21st-century environment for our students, especially in the elementary schools, where we make sure they have up-to-date and appropriate technology.

“It means we’re combining our resources, and for the teachers, it means more time to plan and collaborate,” Speck said. “We had a steering committee of parents, faculty and staff, different people looking at the facilities, and what came out of that committee was the need and the desire to have a centrally located campus that would serve our traditional early education through 12th-grade students.”

What happens next
The precise timetables for construction can’t be firmed up until the board secures public approval of the consolidation first. This will require the school-improvement bond issue to pass May 7.

In the meanwhile, the district will continue efforts to educate the public about what the consolidation would entail.

“The feedback has been positive so far,” Speck said, acknowledging he expected some resistance from student families that enjoy the standalone nature of their schools. “When you explain to people we’re only using 40 percent of our space currently, and that we can manage our schools in a more efficient way that maximizes the resources for their children, they support that.”

Morrison said there are only positives.

“I’m part of the community, too, so I’m not eager to drop a bunch of money on a model that won’t work. But I know this model will work, and I know we can do this without costing the community any money,” Morrison said.

“And ultimately, it will save money, since we won’t be dealing with outdated buildings that are not energy efficient, and that require us to invest in the roof and such,” he added. “Eventually, we will have to figure out what to do with those buildings, as community centers or any number of other options.

“Our main focus, though, is to give these kids every advantage we can give them, and then some, a step above in technology,” he concluded. “Putting them all in one campus, we’re expecting a grand increase in academics. So it’s a win-win situation.”

A special presentation will be held at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13 in the auditorium at Madison High, 915 E. 11 Mile, on Wednesday. For more information, call (248) 548-1800.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.