ELPS Superintendent Releases New Boundary Proposal Recommendations

Friday, December 7, 2018, 1:52 pm
Karessa Wheeler

East Lansing Public Schools Superintendent Dori Leyko emailed a new boundary proposal to community members Friday with significant changes in the timing of redistricting for Red Cedar, Glencairn and Pinecrest Elementary Schools.

The proposal will be up for a vote by the Board of Education on Monday night, December 10, the Board’s final meeting of the year and the last for the two members who are retiring, Karen Hoene and Nell Kuhmuench.

Leyko laid out the proposal as a timeline with the following changes.

For the 2019-20 school year:

  • Glencairn’s population will return to their new building.
  • Pinecrest’s population will move to Red Cedar.
  • Donley’s population will move into their new building.
  • Whitehills’ population will move to the current Donley building.
  • Students in the future Red Cedar catchment district will have the choice of staying at Red Cedar, but otherwise will be bussed to Glencairn. At the same time, students in current Pinecrest boundary who will eventually be moved into the Glencairn population in 2020 may elect to attend Glencairn with bussing provided. (No permeable boundary requests will be required for students to stay in Red Cedar or to move from Pinecrest to Glencairn.)

Leyko indicates that, after Red Cedar is finished being used as a “swing school,” the new Red Cedar School catchment area “will be south of Michigan Ave. and west of Hagadorn Rd. and will encompass Spartan Village, the Flower Pot and Ivanhoe neighborhoods and 1855 Place.”

She also writes that Red Cedar School “will house both early childhood and elementary programming as soon as possible.”

For the 2020-21 school year:

  • Marble’s whole school population will move to either Red Cedar or the current Donley building. A decision will be made in December 2019.
  • Whitehills’ population will return to their new building.
  • Most of Pinecrest will return to their new building. Students living south of Woodhingham Drive will move into Glencairn. If students are in fifth grade, their families can have them elect to return to Pinecrest. Other students can remain in Pinecrest through a permeable boundary request.

In the 2021-22 school year:

  • Marble’s population will return to the new Marble building.
  • Other district boundary shifts will be decided and go into effect for Fall 2021.

James Barger is a Glencairn father and Red Cedar resident who spoke up against the original redistricting proposal that would have kept a group of students at Red Cedar during its use as a swing school. He reacted positively to the changes.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about the proposal. At the very least, we finally have some indication that the superintendent/board are trying to accommodate us,” Barger wrote.

He continued, “The biggest win that I see is that students will not be forced into Red Cedar while it is still being used as a swing school. Keeping students in one building but transitioning new classmates and teachers through each year just seemed ridiculous to me. Hopefully, that will allow time for a meaningful discussion about what Red Cedar will become.”

Originally, Leyko had proposed keeping around 70 students at Red Cedar Elementary while it serves as a swing school for Pinecrest and possibly Marble populations. She also proposed moving 58 students from Pinecrest into Glencairn in the upcoming fall as the rest of Pinecrest moves to Red Cedar during construction.

Parents from all three neighborhoods protested those suggestions.

In response, Leyko had offered additional considerations, including possibly keeping Woodingham Drive within Pinecrest boundaries, reducing the number of currents students impacted from 58 to 53. She also suggested keeping the Glencairn population together at Red Cedar for another year and moving Pinecrest to the new Glencairn during their year of construction.

The latest proposal appears to adopt the consideration of keeping Woodingham Drive residents in Pinecrest and addresses the concern that many parents had about the risks of keeping the Red Cedar catchment students in the building through two or possibly three different populations.

“We’ve appreciated all of the input and feedback throughout the process and I believe that this proposal is responsive to many of the concerns that were communicated to us,” Leyko wrote in her email to district parents earlier today.

Board Vice President Erin Graham agreed that the proposal shows the administration’s willingness to listen to the concerns of families.

“In developing this proposal, Superintendent Leyko has been committed to a transparent process, a data-driven approach, and to listening and responding to community feedback. For that, I am grateful,” Graham wrote.

Leyko also encouraged people to continue to ask questions or provide feedback to herself and to the Board. There will be time allotted for public comment before the board votes on Monday.

The Board of Education appears to remain on the same timeline for deciding future programming at Red Cedar, with discussions beginning this winter and a decision being made in June 2019.

However, Barger said the Board still needs to create a policy for future transitions that limits the stress on students and allows them flexibility on which schools they can attend.

“I still feel that any transitioned student should be allowed to choose either their old or new cohort. Assuming that the Board is going forward with the building size and layout plans, students will have to be transitioned from most of our new schools. Regardless of where boundaries are drawn, someone is always going to be just over ‘that line.’ I'd prefer us to come up with a policy now, that addresses the potential concerns of any parents, and allows those to be accommodated,” he said.

“Through this process,” Barger said, “I've had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people from all of our schools, and it's been wonderful. There are legitimate concerns at each of our buildings, and I'd encourage the Board to come up with a solution that would enable us to unite and make all of our schools better, instead of choosing a solution that turns neighborhood against neighborhood and school against school. That happened 5 years ago and I really don't want to see it happen again. “

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