Ferndale restructuring, Berkley bond work to make for a busy 2016

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published January 6, 2016

 Voters approved a $58.9 million bond proposal for the Berkley School District in May that will see work and upgrades at every school beginning in the spring of 2016.

Voters approved a $58.9 million bond proposal for the Berkley School District in May that will see work and upgrades at every school beginning in the spring of 2016.

Photo by Deb Jacques


BERKLEY/FERNDALE — The Ferndale School District saw a drastic change in locations and operations in 2015, but the changes won’t stop in the new year as the restructuring process will continue in 2016.

In March, the Ferndale Board of Education approved restructuring the elementary schools in the district from three buildings to two, with upper and lower elementary buildings, as well as moving several programs and ultimately closing and selling three buildings.

The district got off to a quick start before the 2015-16 school year by moving its central offices from the Harding Administration Center to the Ferndale High School and Middle School building. Early childhood programs also consolidated into one location at Harding, and the alternative and adult education programs moved into the Grant building.

The moves were made to right-size the district, as studies showed that the district had room for nearly 7,000 students while having just more than 3,000 students enrolled.

In 2016, the restructuring process will wrap up as the new elementary structure will take place with sixth-graders moving to the FHS/FMS building, Roosevelt Elementary School housing kindergarten through second grade, and John F. Kennedy Elementary School housing third through fifth grades.

With Coolidge Intermediate School being empty, University High School will move its operations there, and the Wilson building will join the Jefferson and Taft buildings as being for sale.

“The nice part of moving K-2 and 3-5 into the same buildings is there is daily time for all the teachers to work together, and the students to work together,” Ferndale Superintendent Blake Prewitt said. “Best practices show we want that collaboration between teachers and (to) give the opportunity for kids to get to know each other off the bat, instead of the first time being in middle school.”

Similarly, Prewitt said, most districts in the state already have sixth grade incorporated with the middle school.

“You will find all around the county and state that 6-8 is a standard middle school,” he said. “In sixth grade, you don’t want to be only in one classroom all day, as you need someone who has a good understanding of math and English. There are more complex ideas and higher-level thinking, and so sixth-graders require a more secondary model.”

The moving of UHS operations to Coolidge was a matter of what building was in better shape, Prewitt said. The Wilson building was built in the 1920s and fitted for an elementary school, while Coolidge was build as a middle school and has a full-size gym and cafeteria.

While restructuring is the biggest item on the agenda for Ferndale Schools in 2016, Prewitt said the district also will be looking to expand several programs, including the new Cambridge International Curriculum, as well as the early college program that allows students to graduate one year later with an associate degree in one of four areas.

“It is really continuing to build upon what we are doing,” Prewitt said. “We had a lot of great new programs in 2015, so it is something where I don’t believe we need to bring in a lot of new stuff, but continue to work on it and make what we have better.”

Berkley focuses on bond work, different learning opportunities
Like Ferndale, the Berkley School District is looking to make changes at every school, but more in terms of infrastructure.

Berkley residents approved a $58.9 million infrastructure and technology bond for the district in May, and the first phase of the work is slated to begin in the spring of 2016 as Angell, Norup and Pattengill schools, as well as Berkley High School, will see work starting in what is being called phase 1.

Phase 2 will follow a year later in the spring of 2017 with Anderson, Burton and Rogers schools, as well as the completion of the work at the high school.

“I think the biggest thing people will see this year is the bond work,” Berkley Superintendent Dennis McDavid said. “Our voters supported overwhelmingly a bond proposal that will include improvements at all our schools. We will see new boilers, new plumbing and wiring, and some new entrances. And I think the biggest thing is more technology.”

Amid the 2016 phase 1 work, Norup International School will be one of the biggest projects, as it will receive a new 7,500-square-foot space on the front of the building to serve as a multipurpose room for lunch and assemblies.

Angell Elementary School also will have a new multipurpose room added to the east side of the building, and its administrative offices will be reconfigured to free up space for special education. Pattengill, on the other hand, will see more restructuring inside the existing building for better security.

BHS will have the largest scope of work across the two phases, as a new entrance will give students an area to congregate before and after classes, as well as improve security.

Other than bond work, McDavid said the district is looking forward to offering students several unique opportunities for broadening their learning experiences.

A new partnership with Meadow Brook Theatre will see drama students working with professionals; a program in collaboration with the Berkley Education Foundation will allow eighth-graders to visit college campuses; and several groups will be traveling throughout the year.

The traveling — including trips to New York City for drama students, Toronto for French students and the Dominican Republic for students who want to teach English — will give students an opportunity that they wouldn’t get in the classroom, McDavid said.

“Travel to another city or area, we believe, is broadening and helps students understand their place in the world,” he said. “Another culture and another city can be life-changing, and they have a chance to understand and talk with other people from other backgrounds. They will see there are some possibilities out there and also appreciate where they are in Berkley.”