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Board to vote on Trombly early childhood center plan June 29

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 23, 2020

 The Grosse Pointe Public School System Board Of Education is expected to vote June 29 on a resolution to use the former Trombly Elementary in Grosse Pointe Park as an early childhood center.

The Grosse Pointe Public School System Board Of Education is expected to vote June 29 on a resolution to use the former Trombly Elementary in Grosse Pointe Park as an early childhood center.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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GROSSE POINTES — With Trombly closing as an elementary school at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, there is a chance the building could be used as an early childhood center in the Grosse Pointe Public School System.

But there are many factors the GPPSS Board of Education must consider, including the fact that an anonymous donor who was going to help with the program costs has temporarily taken the offer off the table.

After lengthy discussions on the matter at the last two school board meetings — June 8 and 22 — the school board plans to vote at the June 29 school board meeting on a resolution to run a one-year early childhood center pilot program at Trombly for the 2020-2021 school year. The board was supposed to vote on the matter June 22 but voted 4-3 to table it.

President Margaret Weertz, Vice President Kathleen Abke, Trustee Joseph Herd and Trustee Cindy Pangborn voted to table the agenda time while Secretary Christopher Profeta, Treasurer Judy Gafa and Trustee Christopher Lee voted against the measure.

Because of COVID-19, the school district is holding virtual board meetings consistent with the Open Meetings Act. The online meetings are streamlined and can be accessed at the district’s website, www.gpschools.org. Check the website for the meeting time.

Trombly, in Grosse Pointe Park, and Poupard Elementary School, in Harper Woods, both closed at the end of this past school year as part of the district’s reconfiguration plan. The proposal for the early childhood center program at Trombly came about last year in an effort to expand the district’s Pre-K Tuition Program and provide child care on the south end of the district.

The proposal consisted of a three-year plan at Trombly. The proposal also included a $1 million donation from an anonymous donor to be used to support the expansion of the early childhood center at Trombly. As per school officials, the second year would be when the funds would be needed for the construction costs, potential marketing and key personnel in running the early childhood center. However, the $1 million offer has been rescinded presently because of the uncertainty due to COVID-19.

Because the monetary offer was canceled, district administrators recommended the district move forward, not with a three-year plan, but with a one-year pilot program funded exclusively by tuition for an early childhood center at Trombly. Plans for the program’s first year included the expansion of one pre-K classroom to four pre-K classrooms.

“Since we have a pre-K license for the one classroom, we could use the license to expand to four classrooms,” district documents state. “The four classrooms would be for three- and four-year-old children in the first year.”

From Jan. 2-30, school officials began accepting tuition registration and enrollment for the Trombly early childhood center. During Monday’s meeting, Deputy Superintendent for Human Resources and Educational Services Jon Dean said that 42 families had enrolled, initially. However, after a survey, 33 families indicated they would be sending their child to Trombly’s early childhood center, none of them said “no” and seven people were unsure.

As per the resolution, the board stated that it would not use money from the general fund or the 2019 bond to expand, renovate or otherwise subsidize the early childhood center.

One of the issues many school board members struggled with was the fact that families had already signed up to bring their children to the Trombly early childhood center. Now, they might have to look elsewhere for child care, should the pilot program be canceled.

As part of the resolution, the district will continue the expansion of the early childhood center at Trombly if there is a donor agreement to fund the expansion in place no later than Sept. 1, 2020.

“If there is no donor agreement in place to fund the expansion of the ECC at Trombly by September 1, 2020, the district will provide notice to the community that the ECC at Trombly will end on June 30, 2021,” the resolution states.

“According to (their) letter, the donors do not want to commit to funding until the impact of COVID-19 on the operation of the Grosse Pointe Schools and future operations is known,” said Pangborn, who felt the Sept. 1 date is “unreasonable.” “We haven’t even started school then. To do it at that date is not good for the community, it’s not good for the donors, it’s not a practical solution. I think that should be put more closer to December and January to see what has happened in our fall, if there is a second wave of this. I’d like to see that date changed in this contract.”

On June 30, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to release the executive order “Michigan’s Return to School Roadmap” that will provide information on opening schools statewide this September.

“We’re going to be well versed, and we’ll be able to answer the donor’s questions about what school’s going to look like by September,” Gafa said. “I firmly think we owe those families, the 33 families that (have) been called and they’ve committed to attend that program, (to) have the program come September when they need it. We owe these families this program.”

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