School Board plans new programming at Red Cedar Elementary

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Board of Education President Nell Kuhnmuench explains how innovative education programming will benefit the East Lansing community.

Board of Education President Nell Kuhnmuench explains how innovative education programming will benefit the East Lansing community.

By Jane Wagner
Entirely East Lansing

After months of debate over what to do with the vacant building, the East Lansing Board of Education will potentially reopen Red Cedar Elementary School for “innovative educational programming.” The Board met on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. to discuss the fate of the building.

“We lost something valuable to the community with the closure of Red Cedar School,” said Treasurer Kath Edsall. “The initial population dozens of years ago were children of our international students from Michigan State who lived in family housing.”

The closing of Red Cedar was more than just a reconfiguration of the school district because it was most diverse school in the area. Many said they were being discriminated against and lost access to educational benefits.

“MSU is rebuilding family housing two blocks from Red Cedar,” said Edsall. “We can focus on that student population and increase access for those families who will live two blocks away and walk their kids to school.”

East Lansing schools have lost roughly 200 students to other districts, partially because those districts offer alternative programming. International baccalaureate, STEM, language immersion and Montessori were mentioned at the meeting as innovative programming in nearby districts. Although it is unknown how exactly the school would be populated, both the combination of MSU international families and the enticement of new programming were proposed to help resolve the issue.

“How the school will be populated probably will partly be determined by the programming,” said President Nell Kuhnmuench.”It may be that it will be very attractive … to people who have left our district or people who are in another district and see an opportunity to come here.”

The Board is looking to form a committee of educational professionals, and possibly parent representatives, to look at innovative programming for both Red Cedar Elementary and Donley Elementary. The motion is anticipated to be brought forward for action as early as Oct. 12, and no later than Dec. 14. The biggest concern is education for the community’s children, and making sure every family has access to the same resources and opportunities.

“East Lansing Public Schools strive to provide every student with exemplary instruction in equitable learning environments designed to educate the whole child,” said Edsall.

Different children learn in different ways, and alternative programming will create new opportunities for those who do not thrive in traditional learning settings. The programming will hopefully draw attention to ELPS as a district that can identify change and adapt with the times. The board also hopes to eliminate the racial tensions surrounding the closure of the school.

“It has been a painful issue for this school district and this community,” said board member Kate Powers. “I don’t see us truly healing from this issue until we come to a conclusion about what comes next for our school district.”

The meeting ended on a positive note, with all members excited to form the committee to determine the programming the district will implement.

“There’s a lot of awesome things that go on in this district,” said Powers. “Those are the things that I want out in our community, opposed to conversation and concerns about what comes next for one physical structure.”

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