High overhead costs and too much empty space were part of the reasons cited Monday by district officials for placing , and elementaries on the short list of schools that might close.
The three elementary schools, along with alternative high school and Tanger Center, a special education program, all are candidates to close in the various scenarios the district is weighing that would realign the district to best make use of its available instructional space.
Plymouth-Canton administrators and at least 200 parents participated Monday in a community forum, the third during the realignment process, at .
When determining which schools best met the criteria to close and save funds, Fiegel, Gallimore and Hulsing consistently "rose to the top," said Phil Freeman, assistant superintendent for facilities and operations. The buildings, Freeman said, bear the highest non-instructional costs and are utilized less than other district facilities.
A plan that would close the five buildings, dubbed Scenario 1A by the district, was to save the district between $2.465 and $2.605 million per year, while using 90 percent of each building for instruction.
A second plan, Scenario 1B, would spare Gallimore Elementary, but would save the district fewer dollars, with estimates between $1.68 and $1.93 million per year. The plan would make use of 85 percent of each building's space.
Both plans would relocate Starkweather and Tanger's programs toward the center of the district.
The second scenario, Freeman said, gives the district more breathing room.
"It allows us opportunities to do more in each elementary building," he said, while only closing two schools.
Community gives input
Several parents made clear their desire to keep Gallimore Elementary intact. Director of Community Relations Frank Ruggirello Jr. read through a long stack of community comments in place of parents approaching the lectern.
Parent Kathleen McNulty wrote on a comment card that Gallimore is a "neighborhood school," much like Hulsing, with its location situated near many homes.
"Please do not turn the lights off on Gallimore," she wrote, earning a loud ovation from the crowd.
No plans to demolish empty buildings
Superintendent Jeremy Hughes reiterated Monday that the district has no plans to demolish unused buildings and will instead repurpose or try to sell its vacant real estate.
Hughes, however, said the buildings "might sit empty for a while." He said districts can leave buildings unused for up to three years before being required to build up to newer facility standards.
A look at the district's scenarios
The first scenario presented by Plante Moran CRESA maintains the elementary buildings’ K-5 configuration and would make use of 90 percent of available space, but would close Fiegel, Gallimore and Hulsing elementaries and relocate Tanger Center, a special-education facility, and Starkweather, the district’s alternative high school, elsewhere in the district. This would save the district between $2.465-$2.605 million.
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.
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 , while relocating Tanger and Starkweather.
This plan would save the district between $3.415 million and $3.645 million.
, , , and elementaries would remain K-5 in the in the short term, and 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 Alternative 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 for lower-level instruction before moving up to for upper-level grades. The district’s elementary districting map would reflect these pairings for deciding which schools students attend.
Freeman said the district also is weighing several new options that would spare Plymouth-Canton's elementary buildings, but would increase congestion at the middle school level. Additional details on these plans are expected to be posted on the district's website this week, he said.