After months of wrestling with a number of options to address declining enrollment and financial challenges, the Huron Valley Schools Board of Education voted Thursday, March 3 to close Highland Middle School by fall 2011.
The school board will now begin the task of redistricting school attendance areas.
School Board President Lisa Blackwell and Vice President Charles Dittmar voted against the Highland Middle School closure, but the decision ultimately passed in a 5-2 board vote.
A closure is necessary to mete out a teaming approach the district is moving toward as part of a 21st century educational effort, where students work closely with four teachers who collaborate together. A building utilization study was conducted in concert with compiling feedback from district residents through public forums before the board made a decision on closing Highland Middle School.
Several other scenarios were ruled out before the board voted to close Highland Middle School, including creating two fifth-through-sixth-grade buildings along with two seventh-through-eighth-grade buildings. Additionally, the school board considered a proposal to create a new fifth-through-eighth-grade middle school model.
The district will net a savings of about $800,000 per year by closing the middle school, a significant savings given the $4.1 million budget deficit projected for 2010-11 and the $3.9 million shortfall expected for 2012-13.
“It came down to a difficult decision by the board,” said Board Treasurer Sean Carlson. “We based our decision on Highland being one of the oldest buildings in the district and due to future repairs and maintenance costs, in addition to its lowest enrollment.”
While capacity was higher at Highland Middle School than Muir Middle School, Highland’s actual enrollment was the lowest of all four Huron Valley middle schools.
“Students and families would have been impacted no matter what, but there will be fewer impacted at Highland,” Carlson said.
Three other motions were unanimously passed at the board’s March 3 meeting. Board members opted not to relocate the International Academy West nor create a Middle Years Program at this time.
The superintendent will be reviewing all school boundary lines every three years and realigning them as needed to balance enrollment and feeder patterns. Moreover, the superintendent will be monitoring elementary school building utilization. If it falls below 80 percent districtwide and/or an elementary building’s enrollment drops below 300 students, an elementary building will close the following year.
Since 2006, Huron Valley has conducted building utilization studies to maximize resources and reduce expenses. As a result it repurposed Apollo Elementary into an early childhood/community center, ended the school district’s Year-Round program, and closed Baker Elementary School.
Redistricting plans — including revisions to elementary school attendance boundaries — will be communicated directly to parents and posted on the district’s web site.