By Jonathan Jarbou
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
On Monday the East Lansing School Board held a special meeting to discuss a possible reconfiguration of the schools current K-8 model.
The restructuring, that has already been delayed, is aimed towards the K-8 facilities, and according to a letter issued by Superintendent David Chapin, the optimal configuration of grade levels and the most efficient size of the K-8 schools are vocal points.
“I think the board is fully aware that there would be consequences if we didn’t move forward,” School Board Treasurer Babs Krause said at the meeting. “I don’t think there’s anybody on the board that doesn’t understand we need to move forward.”
The letter went on to say the decisions of the board will be based on five fundamental goals which were established last year: strengthen the learning environment for students, reduce long-term general fund expenditures, promote operational efficiency and energy conservation, optimize the use of facilities, and maintain the safety of students.
Although the board and Superintendent have the final say in any decision, the TowerPinkster architectural firm was recently hired by the board to provide assistance in the matter. The firm was unanimously selected through a public process.
All parties will reconvene look over all potential options and new information and Aug. 8, and 17. The meetings are both open to the public.
Although Superintendent Chapin reminded the public, along with the board, that all situations right now are hypothetical, members from the neighborhood committee seemed to be a bit more skeptic of the schools plan and intentions.
“I feel like the process was skewed towards a particular results, and I don’t think all options were considered,” neighborhood committee member Bruce Baker said. “I think the school board had some preconceived ideas. I would have had a more open process, and involved neighborhood associations more, due to the great impact the decision has on neighborhoods.”
Baker went on to say that he thought it was pretty clear the board wanted to close two schools and move administration to Glencarin Elementary, close Whitehills, and spruce up the other schools.
President of the board Rima Addiego was quick to point to the fact that all meetings are public and open to public comments.
“I think that we have given as much voice to the community as possible,” Addiego said. “We selected a group, the neighborhood committee, which represents our community.”
Addiego stressed during the meeting that the board was trying to have something that has some traction for 20 or 30 years, not just for a short period of time.
“We are given the responsibility of making decisions that are lasting decisions, and we don’t have a crystal ball, we don’t know what the resident population is going to be like, but we don’t want to create a system for our public schools and have to change it again,” Addiego said. “It’s about sustainability, we don’t want future school boards to have to deal with too few or too many buildings.”
Committee member Bruce Baker said he wasn’t sure the decisions being made were right for the community and neighborhoods.
“They will be saving money if they shut down schools, not as much as they think, but you can’t quantify the commitment you get from a neighborhood in dollars and cents,” Baker said. “I once heard that not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted, and I believe that applies because they’re missing the element that makes East Lansing unique: the neighborhoods.”
Addiego said that the decision had to be made and given to the architectures by early to mid-September due to the election schedule.
The board is hopeful they can come closer to a decision after the Aug. 8 and 17 meetings.