Willow Run to close 2 elementary schools amid building changes
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.”