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Brandon begins school facilities review process



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September 05, 2012 - Surveys will be e-mailed to residents of the Brandon School District this week, seeking input regarding possible restructuring of buildings.

The surveys are the first step in a 4-month review of facilities in the district, led by a team from the Michigan Association of School Boards. The district has hired MASB at a cost of $14,000 in order to provide an unbiased, professional analysis of data, as well as lead focus groups to give recommendations on an appropriate course of action regarding use of buildings.

"They will help us collect pertinent data and analyze it," said Superintendent Lorrie McMahon. "MASB is unbiased and only interested in helping us find the best result. These are extremely experienced people who know what they are doing. We can't duplicate their experience within our own district."

The MASB team consists of Steve Gaynor, Jennifer Rogers, and Tom White.

McMahon said the e-mail survey, to arrive in inboxes Monday or Tuesday, will be sent to everyone for whom the district has an e-mail address. The survey is not available online and only one survey can be returned per e-mail address. Anyone wanting to receive an e-mail who may not be on the district's list can request a survey by calling 248-627-1802. The deadline for completing and returning the survey is Sept. 19. Also this month, the MASB team will analyze data and meet to determine guiding principles of the process.

Focus groups will begin meeting with the MASB members on Sept. 24. School board members will not be present during the focus groups, McMahon said, so that "members of the groups will speak more freely." There will be 7 to 8 focus groups, consisting of parents, staff, and community members who have expressed interest in participating and some specifically invited by district officials. The focus groups will continue to meet through October, giving input.

In November the MASB team will develop recommendations and in December, formal recommendations will be delivered to the school board.

The possible restructuring of buildings was first publicly proposed during an April finance committee meeting.

McMahon has estimated the district could save as much as $400,000 by consolidating grades into specific buildings. Two options were presented to the board in May, both of which would have Oakwood Elementary house all first and second grade classes and Harvey Swanson having all third and fourth grade classes. The options differed in that in one, Belle Ann Elementary would house all kindergarten classes and preschool programs and 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 closed. The second option would have the alternative high school moved from the H.T. Burt building to Belle Ann, and have kindergarten and preschool classes at H.T. Burt. Under this scenario, part of Belle Ann would be closed.

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. However, the plan sparked backlash from many parents in the community and it was determined more discussion was necessary.

McMahon is pleased with the decision to hire MASB for the facilities review.

"We will have professionals leading us who are experienced and can help us pick the best route for Brandon Schools," she said.

"We will balance the instructional piece with the financial piece to make sure our kids are getting the best service."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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