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Posted on Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Willow Run to close 2 elementary schools amid building changes

By Kyle Feldscher

Willow Run Community Schools will have a brand new look in the 2011-12 school year.

The Willow Run school board approved a reconfiguration plan Thursday that will see the district consolidated into four school buildings, resulting in the closure of Kaiser Elementary School and Cheney Elementary School.

The pre-kindergarten through first-grade classes will be housed in the Henry Ford Elementary School building, while second through fourth-grade classes will be housed in the Holmes Elementary School building. Students in fifth through seventh grade will attend classes in the Willow Run Middle School building, while eighth through twelfth-graders will go to class in the Willow Run High School building.

The plan is expected to save the district about $700,000 annually, according to district officials. School board president Don Garrett, Jr. said the plan would allow students to grow in the same atmosphere for their entire time in the school system, which he believes will boost student achievement.

“It’ll be one plan and we’ll start from the bottom and come up,” he said. “We’ll start them early and groom them so nothing’s changed, and the same plan goes across the board.”

Board members approved the reconfiguration plan with only trustee Dorothy Stewart abstaining from the vote because she said she did not have enough information on how much money the plan would save.

She said there are no costs estimated at this point for how much it would cost to close the two buildings and reconfigure the remaining buildings.

“We do know that it will cost something to do this restructuring, we need to have an idea of what it costs,” Stewart said.

The district formed a reconfiguration committee, which met five times and included about 25 members. The committee evaluated eight possible options for restructuring.

District officials are working on a plan for the buildings scheduled to close, superintendent Laura Lisiscki said.

Lisiscki asked parents and community members to trust the district, saying officials have the best interests of students in mind. She and other board members repeated the mantra of “student achievement, student achievement, student achievement” several times throughout the meeting.

“We’re asking you to trust us because we are totally committed to this plan and we believe it will improve student achievement,” Lisiscki said. “We are here for you to answer those questions and there’s a big support system within the staff. The staff is committed and there for you.”

There were multiple reasons the committee chose Holmes and Ford as the buildings to be used in the new configuration of the district, according to Youssef "Joe" Yomtoob, former superintendent and middle school principal.

The only building that could house the approximately 25 classrooms needed for the primary center — the name given to pre-kindergarten through first-grade classes — was Henry Ford, he said.

The elementary center for second through fourth graders needed approximately 22 classrooms, which qualified both Holmes and Cheney. However, documents provided by the district stated the cost to repair the heating and cooling systems would be $453,000 at Cheney, approximately $70,000 at Henry Ford and $70,000 at Holmes.

The cost for running the heating and lighting at Cheney is approximately $95,000, as opposed to $62,000 at Holmes and $70,000 at Henry Ford.

District officials said the new plan would have several benefits, including an increased ability for teachers to collaborate, since all classes of one grade level would be in the same building; the ability to teach a similar curriculum to all students; a more efficient use of resources; and the ability to have more common assessments.

Perhaps the biggest question the district has yet to tackle is how to handle transportation.

Lisiscki said the district does not currently have a plan to change the transportation system to fit the new schools. She said officials were waiting until the board members approved a plan to begin working with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District to amend the district’s transportation plans.

“There’s still some apprehension but for the most part we’ve had very good feedback,” she said. “We know change is difficult but we know we’re headed in the right direction.”

Yomtoob said the plan would re-energize the district.

“It’s a new school system. It’s a rebirth of the school system,” he said. “It’s the best possible plan and has the most potential for excellence. We cannot play each other against each other any more.”

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Tue, Apr 19, 2011 : 4 p.m. deleted my comment that folks who post ignorant statements like "Willow Run needs to be completely shut down" are truly breeding ignorance; and that those folks are typically people who have never entered the doors of a WR school, and have never taken the time to meet our kids. Yet, LEAVES the ignorant post from braggslaw.....WOW! Not a newspaper, just a petty blog of ignorance. Expected.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

I have two daughters who had attended Henry Ford and they both did not get good grades and they both were bullyed on a daily basis. I do like a few of the teachers that are there cause they seemed to care about my childrens education. Now I have moved out of the Willow Run District and into Ypsi School District this year so now my children attend Ypsi schools and I have to admitt both my girls are doing very well. My oldest was getting bad reports on her grades at Henry Ford but now at Estabrook she is getting good grades A's & B's same for my youngest.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 7:48 p.m.

Well, sounds like the curriculum at Willow Run's Henry Ford Elementary must have been far more rigorous than the curriculum at Estabrook.....Good for you WR teachers!


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

Just wondering, where is WR heavy on administrators?


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

As I have been advocating on this subject, maybe there should be a consolidation of administrative staff to share amongst all the schools in Washtenaw County. Sure would make financial sense for the school district. However some would lose their jobs. Hopefully there wouldn't be any naysayers if that were to happen.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

I agree Willow Run needs to be shut down. I made the mistake of enrolling my kids there when I moved to Superior Township. The kids there spend more time fighting and disrupting classes then learning.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

5th graders in among middle schoolers? O my goodness. What are these people thinking? You never mix the two. Should have been up to 5 and the 6 in middle school. So glad mine is not inside that messed up system. Not surprised by the closings. Should have been done years ago. Willow Run should do what Detroit is doing, open up their schools to charter systems. Wow. Good luck Willow Run. You are going to see parents scream when they hear their 5th is going to a middle school.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

Will this result in fewer administrators? Fewer principals, etc? Or, will WR still be saddled with all the upper level administrative costs?


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 1:40 p.m.

RIP Kaiser. Went to school there from '69 to '75. Loved the school and the teachers.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

The Willow Run bashers need to find something productive to do. WR is taking some bold steps to keep their district viable despite the insane measures from the state that make survival difficult. Go Flyers!


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 4:04 p.m.

If WR performed better and cared more about the students than their own personal agenda, they wouldn't be in a situation where the state was threatening to shut them down. There's no excuse to be in the bottom 5% of the state's schools on an annual basis the way that WR is.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

Putting the eighth grade with the rest of the high school classes sounds kind of dicey. Stages of physical and emotional growth and well-being are so sensitive in the tween and teen years. I don't think I'd want my 12/13 year old in the same school with 17/18 year olds. It's tough that Willow Run has to resort to this.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.

Many districts in the state either run K-8 and 9-12 or K-6 and 8-12. There is nothing wrong with no middle school or junior high.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 2:42 p.m.

Agreed with that one as well. I did not see that one either. 5th with middle schoolers is also dicey as well. What a messed up system this is. Totally agree with this post.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 12:28 p.m.

Braggslaw being from Ann Arbor, your comment is understandable.There are many wonderful students in the Willow Run Schools. A new start, a great staff. I hope that Willow Run has a great year. I don't understand why Old Joe Yomtoomb is raking in a big salary, with his old ideas. He needs to be replaced by one of the principals in the district who will be losing their job. He has no ties to the community. AnnArbor News find out how much money he is making and then you will know if Willow Run is serious. Go Flyers

King Withers

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.

I heard that. How much?


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 4:02 p.m.

Yomtoomb is the reason WR is still even its own school district. He COMPLETELY repaired WR's broken system during his first go-around, and he's helping to get rid of the catiness that caused the horror and headache between selfish/ignorant baord members and other school officials.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 12:24 p.m.

Good to see one school board being proactive to address unneeded buildings and restructure to cut costs.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 12:02 p.m.

willow run needs to be completely shutdown


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

Maybe the answer is for Ann Arbor to lend administrative support to both districts and consolidate much of the administrative overhead. After all AAPS has a new Super Superintendent. Consolidation of course development, purchasing, human resources, and other overhead, might be the help that both Ypsi and Willow Run need. AAPS by the numbers has the ability in its Administrative costs to add another 6,000 students based on comparisons to other districts.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

It as been tossed around that Ypsilanti takes over this district. Ypsilanti can't handle its own problems as well. But I agree, Willow Run has to do what Willow Run has to do.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 12:26 p.m.

Instead of being completely negative, how about suggesting which school system is going to take over the education of the kids in the Willow Run School District? Constructive criticism is better than complete negativity.