Red Cedar school still an open issue

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By Alex Barhorst
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

Kathleen Edsall expressed concerns that the current board members will close Red Cedar Elementary School before she takes office.

Edsall and Nate Lake won four-year positions on the board in the November elections. They will join the board on Jan. 1.

Both of the election’s victors are in favor of keeping Red Cedar open. Rima Addiego, the president of the board now in a lame duck session, is in favor of repurposing the school.

The current board voted on Nov. 26 to repurpose Red Cedar. The vote passed with the approval of five of the seven board members.

Repurposing the school would mean using the building as a preschool and administrative office building instead of shutting it down completely.

The decision will not be finalized before Edsall and Lake join the board.

“Lame ducks are pushing really hard to close Red Cedar,” Edsall said. “My first goal is to prevent anything from happening before I get into office.”

Lake said the school board added the subject of closing Red Cedar into its Nov. 12 meetings as an action item.

He added that an action item suggests the board would vote on a decision about the subject, as opposed to a discussion item intended only to be talked about.

Lake said it was “interesting” that the discussion about Red Cedar was not originally on the meeting’s minutes, given the public interest in the subject.

“They slipped in something that wasn’t on the agenda,” Edsall said. “It’s clearly not what the community wants.”

Addiego said the board never intended to have a final vote on the proposal on Nov. 12.

“We would have never voted on (the proposal) had we not given it the opportunity to discuss it for two weeks,” said Addiego.

Board member Pat Riley was the one who proposes the action item.

Addiego said almost every board member, including “the ones that complained most loudly,” have proposed a discussion not included in the minutes.

She added that “this (conversation) did not come out of the blue. There’s a lot of chatter about whether we should be voting on Red Cedar.

“We voted about many different topics…the argument was only used on Red Cedar. Some people will use anything to discredit talking about that.”

Edsall and Lake will have a chance to call for a revote on the repurposing of Red Cedar because it will not take effect until late January.

David Chapin, superintendent of East Lansing Public Schools, created a committee to organize the repurposing of the elementary school.

The committee will give their presentation to the board on Jan. 28 after Lake and Edsall take office.

Addiego said the new members should not take any actions during their first month on the board.

“I worked on the school board for nine years. I think it’s not a good idea to have a major action item the first day or the first month…” said Addiego. “You need to get your footing.”

Edsall did not agree.

“Can they do anything that can’t be undone? I don’t know,” said Edsall. “I think (the board) needs to respect what the election results would suggest.”

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