Source: Sherman Publications

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Surveys key for districtís future

by Susan Bromley

September 26, 2012

Brandon Twp.- The school district has received more than 1,000 responses to a survey about the possible restructuring of buildings.

Superintendent Lorrie McMahon was pleased by the number of returned surveys, more than one-third of the roughly 2,500 questionnaires that were e-mailed to district stakeholders at the beginning of the month.

The surveys were the first step in a 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.

"The facilities review will determine whether we close a building or combine buildings or do nothing," said McMahon. "We will have results from the survey and bring together information garnered at the November 19 board meeting."

A public forum to discuss results and recommendations from the MASB team, led by Steve Gaynor, is planned for 6:30 p.m., Nov. 26, at I-TEC, 609 S. Ortonville Road.

Focus groups, consisting of parents, staff and community members began meeting with MASB members this week and will continue to meet through October, giving input.

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 stressed that the recommendation regarding restructuring of facilities will put academics first and the district's financial situation second.