Cole Academy taking steps to expand in East Lansing

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By Savannah Swix
Entirely East Lansing

Cole Academy, of Lansing, is pursuing options to establish a sister school in East Lansing. Bailey Community Center and property near Hawk Nest Community both make the list of potential locations for the future school.

Principal and Superintendent Brian Shaughnessy stands in front of a display of student artwork at Cole Academy.

Principal and Superintendent Brian Shaughnessy stands in front of student artwork on display at Cole Academy.

The independent public charter school currently services 210 students from kindergarten through the sixth grade. Its model is set up to serve 30 students per classroom separated by grade.

Principal and Superintendent Brian Shaughnessy said that the long-term goal is to grow the school’s student body and eventually open a middle school for its sixth-graders to transfer to.

“When our sixth grade kids leave here, they have nowhere to go in seventh grade,” said Shaughnessy.

Shaughnessy said that opening a second elementary school puts Cole Academy on track to achieving that goal.

“What we should have is two elementary schools that feed into a middle school. So eventually both these schools would be K-5 and our sixth-graders from here would meet the sixth-graders from there at a middle school and it would be sixth, seventh and eighth and we’d add one grade as we go,” said Shaughnessy.

Stacey Johnson, the fourth grade teacher at Cole Academy, has been with the school for 1o years.

“It’s the type of environment where everyone has a common goal,” said Johnson. “We all work together to create the very best learning environment for every child that walks in our door no matter who he or she is, what type of level they’re at, what kind of problems they have, what their abilities are.”

Johnson said she is on board with the idea of expanding Cole Academy’s efforts to East Lansing.

“I think it’s something that there’s a need for. This type of school in the surrounding communities would benefit at least 210 more kids,” said Johnson. “The 210 that we have here are very fortunate and we are very fortunate to have them, but if we can repeat that somewhere else and emulate what we’re doing here it can’t be (anything) but a good thing for everyone involved.”

Students at Cole Academy complete their classwork in the school computer lab.

Students at Cole Academy complete their classwork in the school computer lab.

Cole Academy is seeking property options in East Lansing that include the Bailey Community Center location, which the city announced will be closing in September, and vacant land near the Hawk Nest Community.

Assistant to the City Manager Megan Clark said that the East Lansing City Council may or may not comment on the situation. She said that due to the city’s connection with the local public schools, providing support to a public charter school might be a conflict of interest.

“The city has a pretty strong relationship with the public schools,” said Clark. “I have not heard any council member say anything about whether it was a good or bad idea.”

Clark said that Cole Academy does not need the permission of the city to purchase vacant property in East Lansing. However, if Cole were to follow through with the Bailey Community Center property, the city would be involved.

“We’re in the beginning stages of this. The whole thing is going to center around this town hall meeting,” said Shaughnessy. “That’s the biggest thing.”

A town hall meeting is set to take place at the Eagle Eye Golf Course on April 30 at 7 p.m. Shaughnessy said that this meeting and who attends will determine the next step for the school.

“The first thing we need to see is if the people of East Lansing want us there,” said Shaughnessy.

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