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Posted on Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Ypsilanti school district seeks more input on proposals to close schools

By Tom Perkins

Roughly 60 Ypsilanti community members showed up for a second community workshop Thursday evening to hear more about the district's financial crisis and express concerns over possible school closings.

The district needs to trim $6.4 million from its budget before the fall 2010 school year, and its plans - two options that both "repurpose" two schools - come at a savings of $968,000 and $1.3 million each.

The audience viewed a movie and slideshow explaining the origin of the district’s financial problems, followed by a proposal by administrators. They highlighted several new programs and initiatives intended to attract new students to the district.

Among the more ambitious efforts are expanding the Montessori program, launching a gifted and talented program at the elementary school level, creating an International Baccalaureate program for the high school and opening a “New Tech” high school to provide an alternative, computer-based education.

Dedrick Martin.jpg

Superintendent Dedrick Martin: No decisions have been made.

The audience was then divided into small groups at tables, where they were asked to discuss the two proposals and pick the one they preferred - or develop a third of their own.

It's a scenario being played out at districts across Washtenaw County as they struggle to close budget deficits blamed on falling property values and fewer dollars from the state. The Ann Arbor school district wrapped up its fourth community budget discussion on Tuesday.

In Ypsilanti, most in attendance Thursday expressed some doubt about closing any schools.

“I don’t like either choice - they want to close schools, and that shouldn’t be an option,” said Taura Cheatham, a Chapelle Elementary School parent and co-president of the Chapelle Parent Advisory Board.

Joyce Meads, a parent of three in the district, said Ypsilanti Public Schools should focus on fixing what works now instead of new programs. She also voiced concerns about overworking teachers with large classes.

“I can see a situation where schools are overcrowded and the kids aren’t getting what they need,” she said. “I don’t see how it’s going to be attractive to parents.”

Chapelle parent Aris Woodroofe said the potential school closings are ill-planned.

“Although I’m excited about the new proposals, I think it’s extremely hypocritical that the district is closing the small community schools,” she said.

Others echoed that sentiment. Chapelle parent Maria Cotera said the district needs to examine its successes and build on that.

“Forget about the new ideas and look at what’s worked over time,” she said.

Though the audience included a mix of parents from several schools, the bulk were from Chapelle - which is believed to be the one most likely to face closure.

The district stressed no decisions have been made on which schools are under consideration. In a handout distributed to the community, four schools were listed without names, but had capacity numbers.

Parents were able to deduce the schools from the capacities. Earlier in the week, several district officials confirmed to that schools three and four were Adams and Chapelle, respectively.

In either of the two scenarios, "school four" is slated to close. But district officials said no schools are off the table.

Chapelle parent Jason Wright asked John Fulton, the district's executive director of human resources, “Would you seriously consider closing Estabrook or Erickson?”

Fulton replied, “Those two are probably not going to close.”

He conceded Chapelle and Adams were under consideration in option one, but said school four, which is the only elementary school slated for “repurposing” in option two, was “wide open.”

Several Chapelle parents pointed out their school closing would significantly impact kids at all the elementary schools. They said they didn’t understand how all the students could fit into two schools in option one.

Chapelle parent Jason Jones said he thinks the district needs to provide a clearer picture of the different options and how they would work.

“I’m trying to formulate all my ideas, but I’m not sure I’ve been given all the tools I need to make this decision,” he said.

Estabrook parent Liz Zuber said she sees good and bad in both plans.

“I think something has to happen when enrollment has gone down and the state is the way it is,” she said. “It’s sad, but that’s the way it is.”

Superintendent Dedrick Martin said that while no decision has been made on which schools could be closed, he has received a proposal of interest from a community member that calls for reconfiguring Estabrook.

Whatever the scenario, he said the community must work quickly to come to a decision to meet the requirements of its state-mandated budget deficit reduction plan.

“Unfortunately, we are working in months, not years,” he said. 

There is currently no deadline for a recommendation.

A meeting sponsored by parents of district students will be held at Chapelle on Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m.

Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 10:22 p.m.

Closing no school is a fix for the problems in the Ypsilanti public school's budget issues. They are there because of years of mismanagement of funds by their administration. Now the fix is put on the back of the elementary schools again. How did this plan help when George and Ardis were closed? Here we are with the same problem again. If a quick fix is truly needed, then again, we need to examine Perry. Closing the kdg. building would not disrupt any students. Make all the elementary schools k-5. Again, why is a district of our size supporting 2 middle schools. If closing schools is a "must" as the administration proposes, look at the middle schools that function with fewer and fewer students each year. The ideas of starting new programs is disheartening in these lean times. I can tell you, starting a G and T program at the elem level is insane! It is a fact that these classroom don't have enough textbooks in the core curriculum for their students. It will not be any better next year. Stop fixing problems with band-aids and start solving problems so the Ypsi Schools really are strong.

concerned parent

Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 5:51 p.m.

Why are we passing on a $3 million offer for a school that we already closed (Ardis, reported in Should we really be opening a new school (New Tech High) in that building, when it seems questionable whether it will ever actually increase enrollments, rather than just siphon off students from Ypsi high? Couldn't New Tech, an untested gamble, be started at the high school?

concerned parent

Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 5:41 p.m.

Choosing which schools to close is indeed strictly a mater of practicality. The closure of two (half) of Ypsi's remaining elementary schools, could easily result in 25 fewer students entering the system each year, as dissatisfied parents look elsewhere for smaller schools, that are more accountable and responsive to their needs. With a decline in enrollments along those lines, in five years, all the savings projected as a result of the closures would have evaporated. At that point Ypsi schools will be losing money as a result of the closures, not saving it.


Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 1:12 p.m.

Aside from the fact that the schools targeted for closure are the two lowest-performing elementaries in the system, they're also the lowest-capacity schools. If the system is going to derive any benefit from consolidation and closure, it isn't going to come from filling up the smallest buildings. Closing the two smallest schools in order to fill the two remaining larger ones makes the most sense. Choosing which buildings close is strictly a matter of practicality. The fact that the two smallest buildings also happen to be the two lowest performers just provides an additional reason to shut their doors.


Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 11:10 a.m.

"Chapelle and Adams are the two lowest-performing schools in the district, according to the 2008 Fall MEAP scores. Removing these two schools from the mix, at least on paper, makes the district look better in terms of academic performance." Your logic seems a little off... When you close schools, the children don't just evaporate. Guess what, THEY GO TO THE REMAINING SCHOOLS. Estabrook and Erikson will be impacted in myriad ways including their MEAP scores. How will two overcrowded, underperforming schools look good on "paper" or in any other measure? Moreover, you need to look a little deeper at your "data", and do some basic analysis. First, multiple studies have demonstrated that standardized tests scores reflect, more than anything else, the educational attainment of parents. The children of parents who go to college score higher than the children of parents who do not. Second, if you control for Chapelle's demographic (87% minority, 91% reduced lunch), then their test scores in comparison to those of Erikson and Estabrook look very good. In addition, Chapelle received a grade of "B" from the "No Child Left Behind" mandatory state accreditation system; the same grade as Erikson and Estabrook. Clearly someone is doing something right with those kids. Some wonderful things are happening at Chapelle, it would be a terrible, short-sighted mistake to close what could surely be a MODEL school for the education of minority and low income children. Again, I ask you, is it just that this population seems an easy target that you and others are calling for its closing?


Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 10:25 a.m.

Dr. I. Emsayin said: I don't understand why the millage is not going up for voters' approval again this spring. As someone who has worked on millage campaigns in the past (though not this particular one), I can tell you that the decision to ask again involves: * the margin by which the measure failed * the measure's placement on the November ballot * readily organizable opposition to the millage * the profound lack of support in the outlying townships * the local economy * the perception that the public schools are "out of touch" * the amount of money being requested To put the measure back on a spring ballot would require a special election, which would cost additional funds. WISD, as the millage sponsor, is exceptionally sensitive to the public's perception. They do not want to risk: A.) Wasting money on an election that has little chance of success B.) Irritating the public with another ask C). Having the public start wondering why we need WISD anyway. D.) Future options on other millages It's actually kind of a no-brainer for WISD; when voters put the "No" in November, it's usually the kiss of death for a measure. I wouldn't expect to see this thing back on the ballot for a couple of years.

concerned parent

Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 9:47 a.m.

Why is everyone focused on students at Chapell and Adams, and not talking about the impact these plans would have on Estabrook and Erickson kids? The YPS plans are going to put 200 additional students in those schools raising their enrollments by 20%! This will make those schools less safe and overcrowded, and there will definitely be less oversight with that many kids under one roof, with just one principal to handle discipline. I think they are already big enough.


Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 8:53 a.m.

The good people of Ypsilanti need to ask their Progressive Superintendent how throwing money at the International Baccalaureate Organization, an elitist arm of the UN, will ultimately benefit the community and save money. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater to embrace IB's "one-world" ideology is NOT the way to restore American prosperity. Learn the facts at:

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 8:37 a.m.

I don't understand why the millage is not going up for voters' approval again this spring. Perhaps the country needs to feel the pain of out of pocket expenses for sports and music, some layoffs need to happen and schools closed before the community understands what an extra few hundred dollars a year could have meant to the community.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 11:44 p.m.

Chapelle and Adams are the two lowest-performing schools in the district, according to the 2008 Fall MEAP scores. Removing these two schools from the mix, at least on paper, makes the district look better in terms of academic performance. The biggest budget savings will come from closing schools. Doing less than that isn't an option at this point if the district wants to retain control over its spending. If the deficit isn't reduced (and fast) a financial manager will be appointed, and that person's first task will be to close some schools.

Ypsi by Choice

Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 10:05 p.m.

Missypsi, your notions of disrupting less of our community are surely a route we should examine. Smart thinking!


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 9:46 p.m.

This is really surreal. It reminds me of a science fiction scenario in which a community is given the choice about killing off one of its members, and instead of questioning that choice, and its rationale, they all turn to its weakest member. "Take that one..." Its really very sad. Point the finger at the people who have the least resources, and the least ability to speak out on their own behalf. Here's a modest proposal: close Perry CDC, its the most underutilized school, and closing it would not disrupt any students currently enrolled. Current Kindergarteners would just move on to their "school of choice" next year, and entering students would go to a K-5 school as do children across America. Moreover, closing Perry would distribute the pain of the cuts through the whole community, not just the primarily African American community enrolled in Chapelle and Adams. After all, we need to "cut costs" and make sacrifices, so why not sacrifice the school that is currently only half-utilized? It would save us WAY more money than would closing Chapelle or Adams. Come on you "realists" can you get behind this proposal? It's certainly the most equitable...


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 5:40 p.m.

As a curreny Perry CDC parent who is weighing all the options for 1st grade next year, I have to say that both expanding the Montessori program and creating a G&T program would be HUGE encouragement for us to stay in YPS as opposed to going with one of the local charter schools.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 4:37 p.m.

First you implied, then you actually confirmed its a fact that "Educated, tax paying, home-owning and contributing families" only exist at Chapelle. Youre proud of this arrogance? You missed the point with the Spanish classes; we cant have everything we want right now. There is no money. Cuts have to be made. Having a small school population may not be an option. I would like to state again that I never said I supported closing a school, nor do I want schools to close.

Ypsi by Choice

Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 3:42 p.m.

Perhaps I am Win15, I wont appolgize for my "arrogance", nor for the PRIDE I feel for our community schools. I will also not stand down at finding the accurate statistics involivng our schools, demographics and enrolments. I will not allow my family to be a victim to hasty choices made by the administration, while we bicker about which school deserves to be closed. Besides the fact that the euphoric idea of offering Spanish is so far off the radar and topic. Foreseeing that if the ball drops most classrooms will be inundated beyond acceptable capacity. Call me arrogant all day long.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 2:02 p.m.

I do not think closing ANY school is IDEAL. However, our district is trying to cut costs...we are in a financial crisis. Of course, I want to keep all of our services and all of our schools open. I would love to have Spanish offered to all of the students, as well. However, IF cuts are going to include closing a school, then yes. I can understand why Chapelle would be the school considered to be closed. You have admitted your comment was not an implication, but a "fact." Perhaps you don't see the arrogance in your comment...


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 1:27 p.m. your child is at Estrabrook or Erikson right now. Here's hypothetical but all too real scenario: How are you going to feel when 375 o.k. let's minus the first grade because they might possibly end up at Perry, so 300 more students cram into Estrabrook and Erikson. Your talking 600 - 800 kid per elementary school, what are the capacities of Estrabrook or Erikson? Can they even handle that many children? Teachers are going to have LARGE classroom sizes, which studies have always shown that that is a negative in education. Especially with a school district that can't hire teacher's aides and in a time when most parents work full time and are not able to help in the classroom. Possible outcome: people will move away from the district or seek educational choices for their children elswhere. People move, housing prices drop, tax base drops, the school district is now worse off then before. Scenario 2: Chapelle school and Adams (which both had major renovations done last year, so they are actually "newer" than most of the elementary schools in the area)closes. School is boarded up and becomes eyesore in neighborhood, housing prices drop, people move, tax base drops, school district is one again in a mess. Playground on Chapelle's campus is neglected, becomes eyesore, since the playground is so close to Recreation park, well let's face it, who wants to play and relax so close to a boarded up school and neglected playground. What becomes of the Senior Center? and the surrounding Normal Park? Hopefully nothing, but having a empty school sitting so close, let's be realistic..if you were looking for a house and an empty boarded up school and run down playground were less than a mile away..would you move there? How are we to bus all of the new kids into Estrabrook and Erickson? Won't that cost extra money? Where are all the teachers that used to work at Adams and Chapelle? Do people in Chapelle and Adams neighborhoods know of this plan? If not, they need to be alerted, because not only will this effect children's educations, but this plan is going to affect entire neighborhoods as well. We need to be looking past the now and see what type of effect this is going to have on YPS and Ypsilanti as a whole in the future.

Ypsi by Choice

Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 1:27 p.m.

It was ypsi by choice that made the comment, and I am not implying, it is fact. Families who could take their children anywhere make the CHOICE to go to Chapelle. By conjuring up competitive sentiment, you are letting the adminstration control you. You are falling right into their trap to let us "foster" which schools are better, which are more substantial with ratings, ect. I know what is best for my family, not what is for someone else. That is why ypsilanti is school of choice. Before we start to throw stones that express superficial egotism for our own schools, we need to band together and come up with solutions for the whole community. Sure, it might be Chapelle today, but it will be others tomorrow. We need to stop the domino effect that deteriorate our childrens chance at an education that persuaded us to this area in the first place.

Martin Church

Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 12:42 p.m.

everyone looks at the problem of closing schools as it is needed to be done but not my child's school. Let's step back and look at the facts. Which school is oldest, has the highest maintenance, Highest energy costs. Lets see these numbers in a spread sheet in the paper. Two Let's relise the person most important to the child's education is the parent. If the parent is involved the school will not matter. Homeschooling is sucessful becuase the parent is involved. A child is sucessful in public school becuase the parent makes it so. it's not the teacher or the building it's the parent. So let's look at the problem, our tax dollars are removed from the homes to fund education and other things (jails) forcing both parents to work for a living preventing them from supporting the child. We need to cut cost NOW. That means you as parents need to step up and do YOUR JOB. Stop blaming the schools do your jobs and it won't matter which building they go to. Or for that matter if they login to a computer from home and work on their school work from HOME.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 12:38 p.m.

Dear Win15, Your assertion that "Chapelle has the lowest capacity of all the elementary schools" is correct, it IS the smallest of the schools, that is one of the reasons why my husband and I chose it. Its enrollment is "significantly less" because it is a SMALLER SCHOOL, but its enrollment to capacity ratio is the HIGHSEST in the district. Erikson, Estabrook, and Adams are all underenrolled by about 100 students, Perry is underenrolled by at least 200. Chapelle on the other hand is under by about 50. These are numbers drawn from the enrollment statistics available on the YPS website. I believe very strongly that if Ypsilanti is going to attract parents, affluent or otherwise, it must offer a wide array of educational options within the district. Estabrook is a very large school, as is Perry. For some of us this is not an attractive option. For some of us "smaller is better." The district is engaging in some serious magical thinking if they truly believe that closing two schools and cramming their student populations into the two remaining schools is a recipe for attracting more parents. Throwing a "gifted and talented" classroom option into an overcrowded school will not fool discerning parents, and Ypsi's enrollment problems will only increase exponentially as a result.

dading dont delete me bro

Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 12:07 p.m.

i grew up south of michigan ave between mansfield and 2nd ave and all the kids south of michigan from munger to INTO the city limits went to ardis. i was closer to chapelle, explain that one to me? i lived less than a mile from chapelle and about 4 miles to ardis...


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 11:46 a.m.

@Kate again I was refering tecinicaly to Normal Park lines ( goggle Normal Park)I don't know where the school lines are exactly but my son ( And myself long long ago" went to Estabrook and West and I know that the majority of students from Normal Park go to Estabrook


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 11:42 a.m.

I apologize, tdw. You are not the one that made the comment. It was Ypsi by Choice.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 11:37 a.m.

tdw: Are you implying that "Educated, tax paying, home owning and contributing families" only exist at Chapelle? FYI- Chapelle has the lowest capacity of all the elementary schools, and its enrollment is significantly less than Estabrook (and Erickson). If a school needs to be closed, Chapelle should be one of the schools considered...makes logical sense, especially to all of those uneducated parents that send their children to the other schools.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 11:14 a.m.

tdw, while Chapelle is located south of Congress, students from north of Congress are considered to be part of the Chapelle area. I know, because my son went there before the School of Choice system was set up and we live north of Congress. Actually, MANY Normal Park kids go to Chapelle.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 11:06 a.m.

@missypsi First I used the word " tenically". Second I don't know what you objection to the term " those students " is as I used the same term to both Estabrook and Chapele students.And you are correct "those studnts" are from south Ypsi.I was'nt making any kid of judments at all about Chapelle


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 10:38 a.m.

I am confused by @tdw's "clarification." Are you suggesting that Recreation Park, the Senior Center, the pool, and Chapelle are not an important part of Normal Park because they are located on the South side of Congress? I'm sure many of the residents between Congress and Michigan Ave, would be surprised to hear that they are not considered part of the Normal Park community. And by "those students" do you mean South Ypsi kids? There are many, many parents who chose Chapelle as their "school of choice" from across the district. We did, because from the moment we stepped through its doors on orientation night, we felt at home. We visited all of the other schools, but Chapelle offered a unique combination of diversity, a sensible educational model, and intimacy that really appealed to us.

Ypsi by Choice

Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 10:25 a.m.

Thanks TDW, the neighborhood schools do cater to completly differnt areas of the city. It is not the schools fault for its location. Why is closing one school close to the another seem like good idea. To me, it is a great opportunty to consolidate busing and resources. It works for other industries...


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 10:24 a.m.

Concerned Citizen, The "hands off" approach you suggest would (and does) lead to a significant amount of waste, fraud and abuse. In addition, it removes the impetus to review programs and practices periodically to confirm their genuine necessity. (e.g. "I don't know. That's the way we've always done it!") Buildings should be closed based on the same rationale used to open them in the first place: student population. When the student population no longer supports the need for a centralized kindergarten, four elementary schools and/or two middle schools, and there's no indication that the population will increase remarkably in the near future, it's time to close/reconfigure buildings to optimize the use of the remaining facilities. No one likes having "their" school closed, but taxpayers can no longer afford a blank check for education.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 10:14 a.m.

Tecnically Normal Park stops on the north side of Congress those students go to Estabrook.Chapelle is on the south side of Congress and those students come from the 94 to Congress area

Ypsi by Choice

Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 10:05 a.m.

Regardless of the location of Chapelle to needs to realize that MANY of the student body are there by choice and have committed themselves to the program and community of chapelle. Educated, tax paying, home owning and contributing families have made the conscious decision to enroll their children there. We can go anywhere, but chose chapelle.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

Chapelle, dispite the fact that it is located less than a mile away from Estabrook thrives in ways that cannot be matched by any other school that my be on the chopping block. In addition, all home owners in the Normal Park area need to wake up and realise that Chapelle sits on this wonderful park that no home owner wants to see deteriorate any more than it has. That community has fought long and hard to maintain the senior center and the pool. To whom in the community does an empty school serve? If the districts says it will repurpose it, please be sure to ask what program will it be repurposed with?


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 8:49 a.m.

All options need to be considered. However, I can see some logic to closing Chapelle. It's less than a mile away from Estabrook.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 8:45 a.m.

You're absolutely right, Concerned Citizen. But, it's not the districts that have the say any more about funding. That comes from the state and our legislature doesn't see education as a priority. I think the legislature is shortsighted in that regard, because when companies look at where to locate, they often look at what the schools their employees' children will go to are like. Seems to me, we could attract more companies to the state if we had great schools. I happen to agree with one of the parents who spoke in the article - I'd like to see more information on the impact of these proposed changes.

Concerned Citizen

Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 7:05 a.m.

I'm sorry, but funding for the education of our youth should NEVER be reduced. Cut the fat somewhere else.