As of March 1, East Lansing now has one more permanent elementary school. Before, East Lansing had been using only five elementary school buildings. While Red Cedar Elementary was being used as a backup school or a “swing school” as East Lansing School Board President Terah Chambers called it. It has been a school where students “swung through … while their schools were under construction.” Red Cedar Elementary went through its own renovations back in the summer of 2018 however, to get the building ready to house students again.
Superintendent of East Lansing Public Schools Dori Leyko said the building updated “all of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in the building, along with new flooring, windows, and cabinetry and furniture throughout the building.” Cosmetic renovations will be finished this summer. Renovations include a “snowmelt system under the entranceway sidewalks and potentially an upgrade to the outdoor amphitheater.”
The original plan was for Red Cedar to become a permanent school in the fall of 2020, but due to COVID-19, East Lansing public schools have been fully remote since last March. Almost a year later, however, on March 1, East Lansing public schools resumed in-person learning. Red Cedar Elementary had been holding students since 2018, however. During the 2018-19 school year, Red Cedar housed kids from Glencairn Elementary, and during the 2019-20 school year kids from Pinecrest Elementary while those buildings were being rebuilt.
“The ability to bring a sixth building into our community spreads our students out a little bit more,” said Chambers. It also “brings the population of each school down a little bit, it makes it a little bit more manageable.” Having a sixth school in the district also creates what Chambers called a district of “neighborhood schools,” where most students have a school within walking distance to their home. Chambers said the community really values this.
According to Richard Pugh, director of finance for East Lansing public schools, the entire project budget approved by voters would be $93,770,000. The renovations at Red Cedar Elementary would cost $11 million. However, Pugh says, as of Feb. 27, the total spent at Red Cedar is only around $10.4 million, $600,000 under budget. That number is most likely to go up, Pugh said “We are also doing a solar package at each of our elementary buildings and a portion of that solar cost will be allocated to Red Cedar.” However, he also said that the solar package “will not exceed the remaining funds.”
The last remaining building to be completed is Marble Elementary which is currently under construction and will be ready for the next school year, as will all buildings in the district. This means when fall comes and schools open, there will be six fully operational elementary schools for the district.