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May 9, 2014

WCS board to consider redistricting plan

Proposal, if passed, will save money

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

WARREN — Warren Consolidated Schools officials are looking at redistricting the school boundaries and relocating students as part of a plan to reduce expenses for the 2014-15 school year.

WCS Superintendent Robert Livernois and district Chief Academic Officer Brian Walmsley presented the plan during a parent meeting held the evening of May 6 at the WCS administration center. Approximately 100 parents attended. The proposal also was presented to the school board at an April 23 school board meeting and again May 7.

The proposal includes the repurposing of Flynn Middle School and Hatherly Elementary School, as well as adjusting the boundaries of several other schools. The proposal is projected to save the district $2.7 million during the next school year. The school board is expected to vote on the plan at its May 21 board meeting.

The plan includes various staff layoffs. According to the presentation, it would eliminate $2.3 million in classroom teachers, general education support staff and special education personnel; $500,000 in administration and support personnel; and $200,000 in athletics and scholastics. That totals $3 million in savings. School officials would allocate approximately $300,000 from the $3 million to provide transportation for the boundary changes, thus the total saving with the plan comes to $2.7 million.

The proposed plan was designed to provide a more efficient use of school facilities, a consolidation of programs and personnel resources, and adjustments to school boundaries in an effort to maximize school capacity.

The boundary changes would impact elementary school and middle school borders. According to Livernois, the plan will affect some students but “nowhere near the total enrollment of the district.” Walmsley said there are no plans to change the high school boundaries.

School districts statewide have reduced staff and programs for several years to balance their budgets. Funding for public education is tied to the economy. Because of Michigan’s recent economic decline, funding for school districts has been cut at the state level, although school expenses have increased. The redistricting plan is another effort to reduce expenses in WCS.

“We’re attempting at every turn to find efficiencies wherever possible,” Livernois said. “We’re using the best things we can to maximize the resources we have. There are going to be situations that are going to be difficult.”

If the proposal is accepted, Flynn would house Community High, adult education and the English as a Second Language program. Hatherly would be used for World of Fours, tuition-based preschool, early childhood special education and half-day kindergarten.

Hatherly was chosen for repurposing because the school is geographically located off a main road and the building is conducive to an early childhood center. There are several neighboring elementary schools that have space to accept Hatherly students.

Changes would be in store for Grissom and Flynn middle schools. If the school board approves the proposal, Flynn students would relocate to Grissom. Current Grissom students would be assigned to Grissom, Carleton or Beer middle schools. The address of the student would determine the school.

Parent response
Many parents had questions. Parents inquired about the locker and lunch capacity at Grissom, whether or not School of Choice parents would be able to keep their children at their current schools was brought up, and large class sizes and school safety also were concerns. 

Some parents spoke up, stating their children would be bused to schools although their current neighborhood school is within walking distance. Two separate parents also told Livernois and Walmsley their elementary children already have been enrolled at three schools in the district.

The proposal was concerning for parent Rochelle Kelley because it would move her seventh-grade son with autism from Grissom to two different schools in two different years; he would switch schools for his eighth-grade year and then again when he begins high school in ninth-grade.

“He only has one year left at Grissom. He’s doing wonderfully there,” she said. “My understanding is he will be going over to Beer. Why can’t they just let them stay? I’m not saying he wouldn’t be OK at another school, but it would take a lot of adjustment in eighth-grade. These kids with autism need routine.”

“My concern is for special education as a whole,” Kelley, of Warren, continued. “Moving them would be so detrimental for them. I know it’s going to be hard on all the kids in the district.”

The meeting shed some light for parent Rose Evers.

“I got some information I was looking for,” said the Sterling Heights resident who has a third-grader at Hatherly and an eighth-grader at Grissom. “There are a lot of questions still unanswered. My concern is they’re rushing it too fast.”

Last week’s parent meeting was held to provide parents an opportunity to communicate concerns to the district prior to the May 21 vote.

Currently, Community High is located at the Butcher Educational Center. Adult education and ESL are held at Sterling Heights High School in a modular classroom. World of Fours is located at Holden and Siersma elementary schools. Susick, Wilde, Siersma and Willow Woods currently house the preschool programs.

School officials added the school attendance boundaries and transportation onto the Warren Consolidated Schools website at www.wcs.k12.mi.us under the “School Re-purpose and Boundary Adjustment” heading. There also is a link for community members to ask questions under the “Fact or Rumor” link.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.