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No elementary restructuring this year; more study needed



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May 23, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- Kindergarten through fourth grade classes will continue in all three elementary school buildings in the district for the 2012-2013 school year.

A proposal to reconfigure the buildings has been put on hold and a committee will be formed to study the issue in the fall.

"Too much research needs to be done," said School Board President Kevin McClellan at the end of a May 21 Board of Education meeting that lasted four hours. "We can't rush this through. No one wants to make the wrong decision."

More than 70 people were present at the beginning of the board meeting at the I-TEC Center, with several district residents speaking out on concerns about privatization, teacher lay-offs and the proposed restructuring of the elementary schools.

Superintendent Lorrie McMahon offered two restructuring options at a special meeting May 10 that differed from initial changes proposed at an April 24 finance committee meeting. In both of the most recent options, Oakwood Elementary would house all first and second grade classes and Harvey Swanson Elementary would have third and fourth grade classes.

In option 1, an early childhood center would be created at Belle Ann Elementary, with all preschool programs, as well as all kindergarten classes at Belle Ann. H.T. Burt would continue to be home to the alternative high school and the early childhood wing of Burt would be available for rental, or would be closed.

In option 2, the early childhood center with preschool and kindergarten would be housed at H.T. Burt and the alternative high school would be moved to Belle Ann. Because alternative education would not require all the space available at Belle Ann Elementary, part of the building would be closed.

McMahon has estimated the district could save nearly $400,000 by restructuring the elementary schools. The savings would be realized through the reduction of about six teachers, which would be possible because consolidating grades into separate buildings more evenly distributes class sizes.

Positive attributes to the change, she said, include students going through their entire k-12 education as a group; classes balanced within each grade; accommodations for advanced students being easier to implement; and teachers being able to engage in specialized, continuous professional development.

Concerns about the grade span buildings would be that it's not the same kind of neighborhood school; parent groups would need to reorganize; transition plans would need to be made every year; and opportunities for older students to mentor younger ones would need to be deliberately created.

McMahon said the committee that will be formed in September to study restructuring will be comprised of teachers, principals and parents and they will also look at what possible impact there could be from closing a building.

"There are no plans to close anything or make any restructuring changes for 2012-2013," she said.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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