By Katie Harrington
Old Town Times Staff Writer
The Lansing School Board began a restructuring process last Monday that includes forming committees and getting the community involved in their decision-making process.
“We’re in the opening stages right now,” said Board Member Guillermo Lopez. “We have to right-size the district in order to fit the declining student population.”
Currently, possible school closings are not an issue since the committee is in the planning stages.
“Right now we are assessing data and have not come to any discussion regarding building closures,” said Board Member Nicole Armbruster.
Jim Davis, the Lansing School District deputy superintendent, agreed. “The citizens committee has been organized to have a discussion as to what the possibilities are for building reconfiguration, but there won’t be any serious discussions about recommendations for the district until January,” he said.
Although there are no definite plans to close any schools, some fear that Otto Middle School might be cloosed since an announcement last spring suggested a possible closure.
Brittney Hoszkiw, the Old Town Lansing Commercial Association executive director, said she was approached by an Otto middle school teacher asking for her help. “I submitted a request to the Lansing Board of Education,” said Hoszkiw. “It said that we’re in support of keeping the school open.”
Davis assured concerned citizens that Otto is not in danger at this time.
“We held a meeting at Otto last spring when we looked at closing four different schools, but things have taken a totally different turn,” Davis said.
Last spring, the board discussed closing Otto because it is the oldest middle school in the district and it needs repairs. At that time, the school population was also the lowest of the four Lansing School District middle schools, said Davis.
In fact, enrollment throughout the entire school district has been declining for the past 20 years. Michigan State University Education Policy Center studies show that student enrollment has declined by 24 percent since 1990.
“At one point we had 30,000 students in the district,” Lopez said. “Now we’re down to 14,000.”
Both Lopez and Davis point to the economy, a lower birth-rate and parents choosing alternative schools as reasons for the decreasing enrollment.
However, Davis said that even if changes do need to be made to accommodate limited enrollment, instead of closing buildings, the committee will try to reconfigure them to adjust to the lower amount of students.
Until then, board members are trying to put their energy into coming up with different solutions.
“We are focusing on how we want to deliver curriculum to make the students successful with the hopes that the building piece will fall into place after that,” Armbruster said.