Administrators say the relocation of the middle school from the Harper Woods High School campus to its own location at 19800 Anita St. is a necessary measure due to increasing school enrollment in the district.

Administrators say the relocation of the middle school from the Harper Woods High School campus to its own location at 19800 Anita St. is a necessary measure due to increasing school enrollment in the district.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Harper Woods Middle School to move to new location

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published June 22, 2018

 The Harper Woods School District has reached an arrangement with Triumph Church to relocate its middle school to the former site of Heart Academy on Triumph’s property.

The Harper Woods School District has reached an arrangement with Triumph Church to relocate its middle school to the former site of Heart Academy on Triumph’s property.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

HARPER WOODS — The Harper Woods School District has announced that it will be relocating Harper Woods Middle School from the Harper Woods High School campus to a new location at the former site of the Heart Academy.

The district is leasing the property at 19800 Anita St. in Harper Woods for $92,400 a year from Triumph Church, which now owns the property. The decision to move the middle school there resulted from a lack of space in the high school building for the growing number of students enrolled in both the high school and middle school.

“One of the primary concerns when I became superintendent was the lack of space, so we’ve been looking at the most feasible and affordable ways to solve this,” said Harper Woods Superintendent Steven McGhee. “So we were talking with Triumph Church, so we have entered into a long-term contract for our middle school, currently located in our high school, to be moved to the church in the fall. This will consist of sixth, seventh and eighth grade. It will be called Harper Woods Triumph Middle School and focus on our new International Baccalaureate program and our college and career pathways program.”

The new site used to house Heart Academy, a ninth- through 12th-grade private school that closed in 2016. It will have full school facilities available to the Harper Woods Middle School students and staff, including 43 classrooms, a full office, a gym and a cafeteria.

“It was built in the early ’60s, and it was part of the Catholic church, and we took over it about four or five years ago,” said Anthony Adams, a spokesperson for Triumph Church. “We have a number of churches scattered across the metro Detroit area, and we used the school building to expand in the Harper Woods area.” 

Adams said the staff and congregation of Triumph had been looking for some time to better use the school property and were thrilled to work with the Harper Woods School District.

“We had been looking for some time to partner with different educational institutions,” he said. “It’s part of our mission to ensure the community has access to a quality education, so we were very excited to have the Harper Woods School District approach us. It’s a great location near major roads and is easy for people to get there.”

Nearby major roads include Beaconsfield Avenue, Eight Mile Road and Vernier Road.

Enrollment at the high school has risen from 434 to 583 students between the 2013-14 school year and the 2017-18 school year, while middle school enrollment has increased from 203 to 250 students in the same period of time.

“The middle school has been at the high school since the building was constructed about 20 years ago,” said McGhee. “Currently, the middle school occupies 10 classrooms and a portion of the performing arts wing. You also have the central offices located in the high school. It is utilizing class space and office space that should be returned to the high school.”

McGhee went on to say that overcrowding had become an issue that was affecting the ability of students to properly learn, and thus was a matter that had to be resolved.

“Class sizes have been increasing over the last several years,” he said. “We’ve had to have classes in nontraditional spaces like the auditorium and even in the hallways. Once the middle school is removed, the high school will have all that space back, which they desperately need.”

Having a dedicated building for the middle school was a change that could not be put off any longer, according to Harper Woods Middle School Principal Heath Filber. He said the move will mean a significant improvement to both students and staff.

“The big thing is that for the first time — we’ve always had to share our staff members — and for the first time we will have our own personnel. We will be able to provide better support for middle school students and better support for middle school staff,” said Filber. “New staff decisions have yet to be determined. We shared counselors before, so we might hire a new counselor or we might just move one counselor to the new school, for instance.”

The move to the new school also will assist in the district’s plans to incorporate the International Baccalaureate program in the middle school curriculum, which the whole student body will be taking part in. 

“The IB program starts in sixth grade and grows to seventh and eighth grade. We have a high testing class currently going into the sixth grade, so they will be the first to experience this IB program in the fall,” said McGhee. “The IB program focuses on a more global curriculum and also focuses on the highest level of international standards for subjects. It prepares our students not only for schools like University of Michigan or Michigan State, but for Harvard or Yale. Teachers are certified or are being certified this summer.”

It also will help the district put into place the College and Career Pathway program, which the district began implementing in 2017.

“The college and career pathway program will focus on urban farming, veterinary medicine, and manufacturing and engineering, where they can learn off-site from professionals,” added McGhee. “It will go on within our classes, but also at Pingree Farms, which they will attend after school once a week.”

Filber said the new facility still needs some furniture and technology assets installed to prepare it for the students, but everything will be ready by the first day of school on Sept. 4.

“It will help build a sense of community pride and a sense of being our own school,” said Filber. “This is a chance for us to put our footprints in the sand and set a direction for a new culture. It’s an opportunity to make Harper Woods Middle School a premier school in the Detroit area.”