The Huron Valley Schools Board of Education took action on Thursday, Feb. 24 to remove a fifth-through-eighth-grade middle school configuration from any further consideration and opted instead to consolidate the district’s four existing middle schools into three.
Board Treasurer Sean Carlson said the fifth-through-eighth-grade option didn’t garner enough support to make such a broad change.
“A change this great needed to have stronger support than what it had,” he said.
The community argued successfully that fifth-graders were too young to be thrown into the mix with eighth-graders.
“The community saw it as merely a physical move to fix enrollment and didn’t see the benefit,” Director of Community Relations and Fund Development Janet Roberts said.
Motions to close Highland Middle School and another to close Muir Middle School were both defeated last week; however, the board requested that district administration develop “scenarios” to close Oak Valley and White Lake middle schools, which previously had been removed from closing consideration.
These scenarios would be added to the existing information on possible Highland and Muir middle school closure options that have been shared with the community.
As a result, all four buildings are back on the table for consideration to either close or be repurposed. The scenarios would also include redistricting plans to better align enrollment and revise school feeder patterns.
In addition, the school board asked the district administration to create alternatives for possible repurposing of a middle school, which could include the existing option of relocating the International Academy (IA) West program currently at Lakeland High School and adding a sixth-through-eighth-grade middle school program.
Currently there is no room at IA West for the progressive middle years program. It would be designed primarily for Huron Valley students with enrollment capped at around 120 students.
“We would have a few slots for schools of choice (students), but it would be mainly for HVS students,” Carlson said.
According to Roberts, the next vote the board undertakes will be which middle school building to focus on and whether to close or repurpose it.
Furthermore, recognizing the district will continue to experience declining enrollment, and based on the data collected during a building utilization study, the school board asked district administration to develop a comprehensive and integrated plan to right-size enrollment in the elementary school buildings. This plan could include a recommendation to close an elementary building in the next few years.
“We don’t want to be back in another two years going through this process again — we want to address the issue now,” Carlson said. “For the community’s sake, we need to be more comprehensive and try to put together a five-year plan.”
The district would net a savings of $800,000 a year if it closed a middle school in contrast to repurposing one, which would save the district between $325,000 and $350,000 a year, according to Roberts.
The board expects to make a decision on which middle school to close or repurpose within the next few weeks.