Lansing Eastern PTSA discusses snow days, Welcome Center and district plans during first meeting since start of semester

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The Lansing Eastern Parent, Teacher and Student Association met Monday night to discuss the high school’s state of affairs after their January meeting was cancelled.

The January meeting was called off due to the school’s multiple snow days, an issue of utmost concern amongst the group when they reunited at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24.

“It is my understanding that we are not in school longer, that we did not go over our limit,” said Principal Donna Pohl.  “Let’s cross our fingers that we do not have any more snow days, because I think we’re getting really close to the number of hours and minutes and days that we need to have to qualify to have the last day of school on time.”

PTSA President Curtis Smith cited the snow days as a “bad time in Lansing.”  Thus, he said he was pleased to see that, over those few days, there was much volunteer help in the creation of Lansing Eastern’s new Welcome Center.

The Welcome Center

“I’m really excited.  I’ve heard some great comments about the Welcome Center so far,” Pohl said.  “We’re not there yet, by any means, but we’re getting there.”

Pohl said they hope the Welcome Center will provide a “caring committee” and a parent resource center equipped with computers, reading materials and more.  Lansing Eastern also hired a Student Support Specialist, Ms. Ortega, to occupy the center.

According to Pohl, “We are trying to make it a responsible thinking center, and Ms. Ortega is going to have a small caseload of about 15 to 20 students who need special attention.”  Those students will report to Ortega if they need to “get back on track during the day.”

Pohl also assigned Ortega the task of investigating whether Lansing Eastern could pilot the same program as Grand Ledge’s “Blessings in a Backpack” next year.  In this program, sponsors purchase backpacks for certain at-risk students, and volunteers fill the backpacks every Friday with food for the students to take home for the weekend.  Pohl was in favor of implementing “Blessings in a Backpack,” for she said that Lansing Eastern has a lot of kids who are hungry.

District plans

The PTSA also discussed the International Baccalaureate program and the public’s notion that such a prestigious and expensive program does not belong at a priority school.

But according to Pohl, Lansing Eastern has one of the widest gaps in the district, featuring some of the highest performing students – typically the IB students – as well as the persistently lowest achieving students.  Lansing Eastern is very mixed – incorporating 23 languages and 56 countries – which Pohl says contributes to the gap in scholarship.

The group conferred about the proposal to the Lansing Board of Education to redefine the school as a “specialty campus” as well.  District Transformation Coordinator Ben Botwinski attended the meeting as a special guest and recommended that Lansing Eastern take advantage of its proximity to Sparrow Hospital and Michigan State University to become specialized in bio-sciences.

However, Lora Morris, a food service assistant and volunteer at Lansing Eastern, said that she believes the district should construct a “mega high school” rather than update facilities across the district.  She said that the district could eliminate the feeling of segregation present today if it merged Eastern, Everett and Sexton high schools.

“The body doesn’t work on one organ,” said Morris.  “There are multiple organs working together. A community is the same way.”

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