Madison HeightsApril 16, 2014
Madison district reviews plans for unified elementary
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
MADISON HEIGHTS — Work will begin later this month on a new elementary school in the Madison district that will unify two existing elementary schools.
Randy Speck, superintendent of Madison District Public Schools, outlined the final plan during a presentation in the auditorium of Madison High School April 1.
He also invited the public to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the new elementary school, set for 3:30 p.m. Monday, April 28.
Madison Elementary is the start of a new central campus for the district. Located at 27107 Hales, off 11 Mile, the elementary school portion is funded by an $11.4 million bond issue that passed by a difference of just 100 votes during the May 2013 election.
The bond won’t cost taxpayers anything beyond what they’re already paying. Officials said the transfer of an expiring debt property tax would finance the bond.
Madison Elementary will combine Halfman Elementary and Edison Elementary — all students, faculty and staff — in a renovated and expanded Schoenhals building, complete with a new access road off 11 Mile.
The Schoenhals building is the current location of Madison Preparatory Academy, previously known as Community High, an alternative high school for at-risk teenagers. Once the district’s preschool program moves to the Schoenhals building this September, Madison Prep will move into Halfman for the 2014-15 school year.
The Halfman students, in turn, will move to Edison, which has plenty of space to accommodate them. Then, in January 2015, both student bodies — kindergarten through fifth-grade — will move into Madison Elementary at the Schoenhals building. Once the 2015-16 school year begins, the Madison Prep students will move from Halfman to Edison, where the district’s administrative offices will also relocate.
Where busing arrangements are concerned, Speck said he anticipates that the district will be able to provide corner stops for all students in the district. These details will be firmed up over the summer, and parents and guardians will be kept apprised.
Madison Elementary will retain the recently renovated gym at Schoenhals, but build out around it. The 69,400-square-foot building features 32,000 square feet of new rooms and facilities, including six new classrooms and five new Early Education classrooms.
The current front of the building is off Hales, but the new main entrance will be on the backside. The building is built with a focus on security in a post-Sandy Hook world.
“When you have a chance to go into the building, you’re going to see a really fantastic entrance,” Speck said. “It will be a dual entrance … where you go in and get checked into another area that will then take you to the office. So no one will just be able to go into the building. We’re going to have new swipe (keycard) technology for all faculty and staff … to where they have the ability to get where they need to be, and if you don’t, then you won’t be there, which is good and what you want as a parent.”
The entire building will be under video surveillance, as well. The new playgrounds are also secure, in a way that keeps kids in and strangers out while looking appealing.
Of special note is the outdoor classroom — 4,000 square feet enclosed by glass-walled corridors leading into the first- and second-grade wing of the building. As parents or buses pull up to the building to drop the kids off, one can see through the glass windows across the corridors into the outdoor classroom, which includes an amphitheater setup and spaces for small and large-scale instruction.
“We’ve got ecosystems we’re going to look to build in these spaces, and people will help develop and design that,” Speck said. “It’s not just going to be grass where we try to grow some corn two months out of the year. We’re looking to really make this a space.”
Other new features include retractable walls in the new classrooms that allow them to conjoin and share space; plenty of windows for abundant natural lighting; a new cafeteria and kitchen; new fire alarms, overhead sprinklers and emergency lighting; a new air-handling system; multiple computer labs in the media center; the new preschool wing and adjoining playground; and a new parking area and parent drop-off lane, as well as grade designations in the pavement outside the school so the different grades know where to line up each day before the doors open.
Madison Elementary will have capacity for 700 kids. Ensuring their safety is one reason for the upgraded building. Another reason is the discovery by a district-wide space-utilization study that the district has 50 percent more space than needed — meaning they’re heating and lighting spaces that are not in use. Aging infrastructure was yet another concern.
This is just the start of a planned five-year district-wide consolidation. The intent is to approach voters again at a later date for permission to build a new middle school behind Madison High on 11 Mile, north where the baseball diamonds are, and relocate the Wilkinson Middle School students there. There is sufficient room to move the baseball diamonds off to the side. Then, all of the schools will be linked in one interconnected campus. The idea is to fund “Phase II” without increasing taxes, as well.
“We’re excited,” said Albert Morrison, president of the Madison Board of Education. “Everything in Madison has turned completely 180 from the past few years. Academics are up; our programs are up. Parents are getting involved; the community’s involved. We’re just excited to see it all happen.”
Speck said the district had been hoping to be able to move all grades from Edison and Halfman into Madison Elementary at the same time, but it would’ve been prohibitively expensive, and they want to take the time and get it done right, rather than rushing.
He said he looks forward to the day Madison Elementary is complete and he can take a picture of it with the sunset hitting it just right. He hopes everyone in the district will feel similar pride.
“This is your building; this is your space,” Speck told the audience April 1. “This is going to be something I believe you, as community members, as residents, as part of the Madison school community, you will be proud of. And for the students, this is going to be awesome for them. … So it’s really up to us adults to make the transition as smooth as possible over the next several months, and I think we’ll be able to do that.”