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Mount Clemens

March 7, 2013

St. Peter to consolidate schools after MCCS building purchase

By Julie Snyder
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
St. Mary School students will start the 2013-14 school year inside this former charter school on the corner of Grand and Gratiot in Mount Clemens.

MOUNT CLEMENS — St. Mary School students will no longer be divided, come the start of the next year.

That’s because on March 2, the Mount Clemens Community School Board, in a 5-2 vote, accepted a $600,000 offer from St. Peter Church in Mount Clemens for their unoccupied 44,000-square-foot facility located on Grand Avenue and South Gratiot.

Formerly the Alexander Macomb Academy, the facility — already equipped with plenty of classroom space, as well as parking, wireless capability and an ample outdoor play area — will house St. Mary’s 440 preschool through eighth-grade students with room to grow, said Rev. Michael Cooney, pastor of St. Peter Church.

Cooney said the move will alleviate some of the inconveniences for the Catholic schools, which has its preschoolers through first-graders at a primary campus on St. Francis Street in Clinton Township and its second- through eighth-graders at the main campus, St. Mary School on Market Street in Mount Clemens.

“This gives us the opportunity to put everyone under one roof,” Cooney said last week. “It’s good for administration, it’s good for parents and it’s good for the students.

“And some parents have kids at both campuses, so they have to drop them off and pick them up at the two locations,” he said, adding that their move to a new location will ease traffic considerably in an already bustling downtown area where many county offices are located.

The purchase agreement comes two years after Cooney made the same offer to the school board — the school board at that time denied the request — and well after the building underwent more than $2 million in upgrades. Currently, a local Christian group called The Well rents the facility on a periodic basis and will be asked to vacate.

Cooney said the school board wasn’t unanimous in their vote because some members felt the building was worth much more. However, Cooney added, because Mount Clemens Community Schools is facing a $4.7 million budget deficit, the money — St. Peter is paying in cash — is much-needed.

“I appreciate their stance and their concern, but I’m very, very happy and delighted that the rest of the board saw it that way,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Board President Earl Rickman, who voted against the sale along with Trustee David McFadden, did not respond to a request for comment.

Cooney said that, in the next 30 days, his advisors, and the Archdiocesan legal department will go through the necessary steps to finalize the purchase.

“We will do a walk-through and see what work needs to be done,” he said. “We haven’t been inside in two years.”

Cooney said they will likely have ownership in May and will work through the summer to get the building ready for students and staff in time for the start of the fall semester.

“The school will hold about 100 more students, so that gives us a chance to expand, which will be great,” Cooney said.

The St. Mary School building was constructed in 1889, but a school has stood at the site on Market Street since 1870. St. Mary has been operating at two campuses since 1999.

In a letter to St. Mary School parents and staff, Principal Maureen Miscavish said the purchase is exciting news for entire St. Mary community.

“Today, what comes to mind the most is that we will come together as one Catholic community, together in one building, in one school that we will all call our home, St. Mary,” she said. “That is the immediate picture. The big picture: it means that,  years from now, when all of our children are grown, Catholic education will live on in the city of Mount Clemens.

“The one constant in all of this, our St. Mary/St. Peter faith-filled community and the quality Catholic education your child currently receives will remain the same.”

Cooney said the next step will be to sell the primary campus on St. Francis, and church officials are considering tearing down the St. Mary building, expanding parking at adjacent St. Peter and adding more landscaping with a Grotto de Mary.

“Because that’s what St. Mary School was founded on,” he said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Julie Snyder at jsnyder@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1039.