Plymouth-Canton to Weigh District Realignment Options
Options include closing various elementary, middle schools.
Plymouth-Canton Community Schools’ Board of Education soon will be faced with a decision on which district buildings to close in order to get the most from the district’s sizable real estate.
Plante Moran CRESA, a real estate consulting firm commissioned by the district, presented several scenarios Thursday to the board and a mostly full Discovery Middle School auditorium that present the best places to put the district’s 18,155 students.
The plans, Plante Moran CRESA partner Paul Willis said, all would save the district money and eliminate unused space in existing buildings, helping the district meet the state’s goal of 85 percent utilization, but each have drastically different ways in doing so.
According to Willis’ presentation, the district’s elementary buildings are the most poorly utilized, with just 78 percent of their classroom space being used. Grades 6-8 are 96 percent utilized, and Plymouth-Canton Educational Park is 100 percent utilized.
The first scenario presented by Plante Moran CRESA maintains the elementary buildings’ K-5 configuration and would utilize 90 percent of available facilities, but would close Fiegel, Gallimore and Hulsing elementaries and relocate Tanger Center, a special-education facility, and Starkweather, the district’s alternative high school. This would save the district between $2.465-$2.605 million.
This plan, Willis said, “right-sizes” the number of facilities at elementary level based on five-year enrollment projections, reduces transportation costs and maintains a maximum one-mile walking distance for most students to nearby elementary schools.
In closing Fiegel, Starkweather’s services could move to that building, allowing up to 400 more students to utilize its program. This could carry an added cost, however, as Fiegel’s science labs would have to be renovated to meet high school requirements. An unused Starkweather High School — a building in Plymouth's Old Village that is showing its age — would cost $186,000 yearly to maintain, Willis said.
The plans submitted by Plante Moran CRESA did not indicate where Tanger Center's programming would be moved.
A second scenario also would maintain the current K-5 format at the elementary schools, meets 85 percent utilization and closes just two elementary schools — Fiegel and Hulsing — while relocating Tanger and Starkweather.
This plan would save the district between $1.68-$1.93 million.
This plan, Willis said, impacts the least number of elementary students. Given Hulsing’s location near the center of the district, it offers the opportunity to expand existing programs or offer new programs at the site, including early childhood programs.
Willis recommended the district adopt either Scenario 1A or 1B.
A third plan would reconfigure grade levels at the elementary buildings to K-6, meet 85 percent utilization and close Fiegel and Hulsing elementaries and East Middle School, while relocating Tanger and Starkweather.
This plan would save the district between $3.415 million and $3.645 million.
Bird, Field, Isbister, Smith and Workman elementaries would remain K-5 in the in the short term, and Central Middle School would require significant improvements, such as improved heating and cooling capacities, to be on par with the district’s other middle schools.
A fourth plan also would reconfigure elementary buildings to a K-6 format for 85 percent utilization of facilities and would close Fiegel and Hulsing elementaries, Central Middle School and relocate Tanger and Starkweather.
This plan would save the district between $3.52-$3.545 million, but would require the same improvements to Central Middle School as Scenario 2A and keep five of the district’s elementary buildings in the K-5 format.
A fifth plan would provide a pre-kindergarten program and reconfigure elementary schools to upper- and lower- level formats and close Fiegel and Hulsing elementary schools. Tanger Center and Starkweather High School would be relocated.
This plan would save the district between $2.15-$2.27 million.
Under Scenario 3, the district would essentially create “sister schools” with each lower- and upper-level school pairing, Willis said. This would, for instance, have students begin at Allen Elementary School for lower-level instruction before moving up to Farrand Elementary School for upper-level grades. The district’s elementary districting map would reflect these pairings for deciding which schools students attend.
This plan, Willis said, would take longer to integrate than the other four.
Parents want to learn more
Community input was tame, but inquisitive after Willis’ presentation. Many parents retreated to the Discovery Middle School hallways, where maps of the proposed elementary districting were on display (and are viewable online within Plante Moran CRESA’s presentation), but some expressed concerns about some of the district’s pending moves.
Canton resident Donna Brazil said she wanted to know what considerations were made regarding adult-aged special education students, whose education is funded by the state until through 26 years of age.
Jennifer Millen of Plymouth said she was worried about already-busy traffic around Hulsing Elementary School, which is situated near a neighborhood, increasing if the building accommodates additional early childhood programs.
More opportunities for community input
Parents will be able to weigh in on the district’s realignment plans at any of the following community forums:
- Feb. 7, 6:30 p.m., Discovery Middle School
- Feb. 27, 6:30 p.m., Discovery Middle School
- March 6, 6:30 p.m., Discovery Middle School
The board is expected to make its final decision regarding realignment plans during a board meeting at 7 p.m. on March 27.