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Plymouth-Canton Parents Weigh in on Realignment Plans

Superintendent says realignment scenarios still could change before board's expected March 27 decision.

Plymouth-Canton parents weighed in Tuesday on the school district’s realignment plans at the second of four community forums on the subject, all held at .

At the forum, about 70 parents submitted index cards with questions ranging from a possible transition of elementary schools to a K-6 format to removing elementary programming from the centrally located Hulsing Elementary School. The questions were read to administrators by Frank Ruggirello Jr., the district’s director of community relations.

This came less than one week after Plante Moran CRESA presented the district’s school board with , each of which would close or repurpose at least two elementary schools in an attempt to make best use of the district’s instructional real estate, with some plans calling for the closing of at least one middle school.

Phil Freeman, assistant superintendent for facilities and operations, answered questions about keeping students at Hulsing together if they shift to a new school under one of the new plans. Freeman said the district currently offers schools of choice within the district, which would allow students to choose which elementary school they want to attend, provided there is space.

“I don’t see us changing the policy,” he said.

Superintendent Jeremy Hughes said a variety of factors were considered when deciding which schools were more susceptible to being closed over others, including impact from local traffic being a factor in utilizing Gallimore Elementary for special programs instead of Hulsing.

“Hulsing is in a neighborhood,” Hughes said. “Traffic coming and going during the day might be less desirable.”

Hulsing currently has 52 percent of its space currently in use, among the lowest in the district.

Still, Hughes said the scenarios weren’t set in stone and new options could emerge at any time.

“Don’t take it to the bank,” he said. “There may be changes yet.”

Hughes said he favors the plans that would use 85 percent of learning space over those that utilize more, as it would allow room for growth if enrollment increases. He also said the plans utilizing the most space won’t help eventual reductions to class sizes.

Freeman said that of all the changes that could be coming to the district, increases in class sizes will not be one of them.

The percentages of facilities usage used to determine which buildings to close were based on classroom units, not class size, he said.

While saving money isn't the district's primary goal, administrators said they would entertain ideas to help save money, particularly with expected reductions to per-pupil state funding.

When one question asked if the district had considered trimming its administrative ranks to save funds, Freeman said that also has been a possibility.

“We’re looking at the best way to minimize our cost and offer the best programming we can, and that includes looking into our administrative ranks as well,” he said.

As for the closed buildings, Hughes said selling the property to other parties is a possibility for “fair market value,” but said the district shouldn’t rush into any transactions.

“It would be foolish to immediately sell a building without knowing if we’re going to use it again,” he said.

The forum was less populated than the previous week’s, with about half of that forum’s 250 parents in attendance. 

Three school board members, President John Barrett and trustees Mike Maloney and Sheila Paton, were in attendance.

Afterwards, Barrett said he wasn’t ready to commit to a single plan yet, but said plans that would change the grade-level structure of elementary schools might be difficult to implement in time for the 2012-13 school year.

A look at the plans

Scenario 1A

The first scenario presented last week by Plante Moran CRESA maintains the elementary buildings’ K-5 configuration and would utilize 90 percent of available facilities, but would close , and elementaries and relocate Tanger Center, a special-education facility, and , the district’s alternative high school, elsewhere in the district. This would save the district between $2.465-$2.605 million.

Scenario 1B

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 — and — while relocating Tanger and .

This plan would save the district between $1.68-$1.93 million.

Plante Moran CRESA's Paul Wills recommended last week that the district adopt either Scenario 1A or 1B.

Scenario 2A

A third plan would reconfigure grade levels at the elementary buildings to K-6, meet 85 percent utilization and close and elementaries and , while relocating Tanger and .

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.

Scenario 2B

A fourth plan also would reconfigure elementary buildings to a K-6 format for 85 percent utilization of facilities and would close and elementaries, and relocate Tanger and .

This plan would save the district between $3.52-$3.545 million, but would require the same improvements to as Scenario 2A and keep five of the district’s elementary buildings in the K-5 format.

Scenario 3

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 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.

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. 27, 6:30 p.m.,
  • 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.

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