Consolidated school district to house grades 5-8 in Willow Run, high-schoolers in Ypsilanti
AnnArbor.com file photos
The joint Ypsilanti-Willow Run Board of Education voted Thursday on the buildings that secondary students in the new consolidated district would call home.
Students enrolling in grades 5-8 at Ypsilanti Community Schools will attend the current Willow Run High School and Intermediate Learning Center, while students in ninth through 12th grade will attend Ypsilanti High School, the board decided.
The New Tech program at Ardis School, off Ellsworth Road in Ypsilanti, will remain in this location for the 2013-14 academic year. The board approved maintaining New Tech as one of the district's small learning communities at the high school at a board meeting in January.
Ypsilanti Middle School on North Mansfield will be closed for the upcoming school year, but it could reopen in the future, if enrollment numbers or programmatic needs warrant the extra space.
The facility configurations approved Thursday were the recommendations of the High Quality Teachers and Teaching Advisory Group. The new district has established seven advisory committees to help research and create development plans for seven specific design-related aspects of the new district.
The teachers and teaching advisory group analyzed a number of things prior to making its recommendation: survey data from stakeholders about how they envision the small learning communities in the middle and high school, a facilities audit and report conducted for the new district by the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, a map of the two districts, enrollment trends, current program configurations and recommendations for athletics.
The educational offerings at the new district are being designed to appeal to a wide range of interests, including project-based learning approaches, an International Baccalaureate middle school academy and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), officials said.
The advisory group's recommendations called for up to four small learning communities in grades 9-12 at Ypsilanti High School and two to four in grades 7-8 at the Willow Run complex.
The themes for these small learning communities have not been selected or announced yet and still are in the community input-gathering stages, said Debra Swanson, one of the facilitators of the teachers and teaching advisory committee who presented Thursday.
"There was a forum Saturday where the community came together and discussed the (small learning communities) and there is a lot of excitement around that work right now," she said.
The Willow Run complex also will have one small learning community for grades 5-6, as well as a 5-8 International Baccalaureate middle school program that will be housed for the first year at the Washtenaw International High School.
WiHi is a consortium IB program for grades 9-12 coordinated by the WISD, which school districts in the county can elect to be a part of. IB programs cater toward students looking for a "world view" and rigorous curriculum that enhances understanding and appreciation of other nations and cultures, according to the program's website.
Swanson said by co-locating the middle years IB program in WiHi, it will provide both programs some additional support and resources as the programs continue to grow and develop.
WiHi will enroll its third group of ninth-graders this fall, after opening its doors in 2011. Swanson said once the IB high school reaches its maximum number of students, so potentially in 2014-15 when it will have all four grades, the middle years IB program will need to be moved. However, she said this arrangement made sense to the committee in the temporary and immediate future as the middle years program gets off the ground and the community's interest level in it is assessed.
School board trustees had some questions and concerns about the 5-6 small learning community that also would be housed at the Willow Run complex with grades 7-8. Parents of children in grades 5 and 6 still would have the option in enrolling their students in a traditional elementary experience through the neighborhood elementary schools, committee members said.
In January, the board approved keeping both Ypsilanti and Willow Run's existing elementary buildings and programs intact for the 2012-13 academic year.
Based on their current configurations, the elementary buildings that would continue to offer grades 5-6 are: Adams, Erickson and Estabrook.
School board members asked why Ypsilanti High School was chosen for the new district's high-schoolers and why Willow Run High School was chosen for the middle-schoolers. They also asked whether the entire Willow Run High School/Intermediate Learning Center complex would be utilized for the new district's middle school.
Officials said right now, the Willow Run High School/ILC complex is used as two separate entities, but it is all one large building.
"You can go from one part to the other without ever going outside," said Ypsilanti Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Martin, who also serves on the teachers and teaching advisory group.
Martin said because it is one building, it is on one heating and cooling system, making it difficult to shut down one or two wings without expense. She also said using just the ILC side for the combined population of students would be crowded and using just the high school side didn't make sense because the ILC side has a new pool and excellent gym and auditorium facilities.
The committee members spoke about how these two buildings, YHS and the Willow Run complex, were the highest-rated buildings that the new district will own, according to the recent facilities report that was conducted.
But Willow Run ILC also was specifically constructed and configured for small learning communities, so it would best fit the program and design concepts being developed for the new district and allow the most flexibility for future expansion of the middle years' programs, school officials said.
Committee members also said YHS has better-suited athletic facilities for varsity sports. There are no soccer or lacrosse fields at the Willow Run complex and the baseball field is offsite, all of which would require additional transportation costs to bus athletes to other buildings on the YHS side of town anyway for training, officials said.
Also, because one focus of the new district is ensuring every student graduates with college and career credentials, YHS is closer to Washtenaw Community College, with which Ypsilanti Community Schools has established a partnership already.