Red Cedar school closing still up for debate

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The school building stands barren on 1190 Narcissus Drive.

By Irum Ibrahim
Entirely East Lansing

Red Cedar Elementary, closed in June, is still an issue at East Lansing School Board meetings. The school and its more than 300 students were up for discussions on Sept. 22 and 23.

The school was known for several reasons, such as having children from 45 countries and accommodating low-income or disabled students. However, several parents of former Red Cedar students found flaws in the school’s system.

Samina Naboulsi, mother of a Red Cedar student, said that she and her daughter enjoyed the global community of the school. “My daughter loved and thrived in an environment that celebrated a multitude of ethnicities and cultures.”

“In contrast, we wished there were more teachers of color who understood how to teach cross-culturally. Most American schools teach international children or children of immigrant families how to assimilate instead of incorporating their rich cultural values into the educational environment. Sadly, this process of assimilation continues through college and into the workplace. Claiming diversity does not equate assimilation of an ethnocentric paradigm,” Naboulsi added.

At the bi-monthly meeting, East Lansing Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Robyne Thompson, addressed the date and time of an important meeting regarding the future of East Lansing Schools. The meeting was held at the Spartan Village Community Center at 7 p.m. on Sept. 23, to hear community concerns with how the closing was handled.

“The meeting is especially directed toward the residents of Spartan Village,” Dr. Robyne Thompson said.

With the closing of Red Cedar, more than 300 students were dispersed to schools farther from their home, of which more than half were Spartan Village residents. As a result, low-income and international parents faced economic burdens in the process of taking their children to school.

In January 2014, a group of MSU students began their 5-month journey to demonstrate advocacy journalism, by creating miniseries documentaries on the closing of Red Cedar. The students made several visits to the school to attend events and talk to students, staff and parents. They found that certain events such as the Festival of Cultures, Mileage Club, and the Jump Rope Show illuminated the spirit of Red Cedar. However, Natacha Larnaud, a documentary contributor, said that the she learned more about the school by speaking to parents than she did by attending school events. “Their perspective and insight seemed to be the most honest of all sources, ” Larnaud said.

There is now talk about the possibility of another school opening at the location. Meetings will continue to be held to further explore prospective options.

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