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Proposed charter school eyes vacated district building



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April 03, 2013 - A former school building may be saved from demolition.

Board members of the North Oakland Charter Academy (NOCA) are seeking to purchase the vacant Sherman Lifelong Learning Center, 300 Sherman Court from the Brandon School District to open a kindergarten through fifth grade school.

Jeff Maxson, an NOCA board member, expressed interest in the facility.

"We are actively perusing the Sherman property for a future charter school. There are only a few local alternatives for buildings that could function as a school building," said Maxson. "We could save the taxpayers the cost of demolition and benefit us so we don't have to build a new school building—it's fiscally responsible. Why tear one down?"

At 6:30 p.m., April 8, Maxson will ask the Brandon School Board to move forward with the purchase.

Since August 2009 the school district had been attempting to shed the 11,000 square-foot building on 2.43 acres in the Village of Ortonville. The 50-year-old converted nursing home facility was purchased by the district in the mid-1990s. The building was home to the Brandon Alternative High School and the early childhood Pre-Kindergarten, which were moved to H.T. Burt Elementary School a few years ago.

In November 2010 the board unanimously approved the proposed sale of the property to a local business owner during their Nov. 8 meeting. The sale price was $147,000, a bargain compared to the $600,000 price the district had been asking when the property was first put on the market.

However, that deal fell through due to restrictions on wastewater treatment.

In February the board voted to demolish the building due to its age. At that time an inspection was conducted to determine asbestos to comply with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation for National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). The inspection was completed by Brett Brumbaugh, certified asbestos inspector. According to the report, the remediation will cost the district $25,250 and must be done prior to the demolition.

Maxson said the building was tested for materials containing asbestos.

"The building is safe to inhabit," he said.

"Whatever the board decides we still are moving forward with the charter school. The public needs to understand it's coming. Taxpayers should have an alternative to (the current educational offerings). The parents want to see the same amount of care and level of education they are getting for their children at Montessori when they get to first grade."

"We are not against the area public schools; rather, they may not be right for all students. We will provide a viable alternative with a charter school."

Brandon School officials could not be reached for comment by press time.

According to the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, charter schools are non-traditional public schools with no physical boundaries assigned to a map and cap enrollment per terms in the school charter. They are eligible for the same source of funding traditional public school districts have; however, they are under contract (or charter) with an approved authorizer, typically a college or university. Other features of charter schools include a volunteer board of directors and teachers who must meet the same standards set for them by the State of Michigan.

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