New Redistricting Proposals Could Keep Glencairn Students at Red Cedar One More Year

Tuesday, November 27, 2018, 9:49 am
Karessa Wheeler

Following a wave of feedback regarding a plan to change schools for around 130 students next fall, East Lansing School Superintendent Dori Leyko is now proposing several changes to the plan to the Board of Education. [Update: Superintendent Leyko has clarified that the possible amendments to her original proposal are not separate proposals, but "considerations that the Board asked her to look into based on public feedback."]

On Nov. 12, Leyko proposed keeping around 70 Glencairn Elementary students at Red Cedar Elementary after the rest of the school returns to its newly built building in fall 2019. She also proposed moving around 60 students from Pinecrest Elementary into the Glencairn building at the same time. Parents from Glencairn and Pinecrest have spoken up against the proposal.

The Board is scheduled to vote on the proposal on December 10.

Last night, Leyko offered four amendments to her original proposal:

  • Redraw the boundaries for Pinecrest to retain the houses on Woodingham Drive, reducing the number of students moving to Glencairn from 58 to 53.
  • Move 37 students who are currently bussed to Pinecrest from west of Coolidge Drive to Glencairn. Leyko is “cautious” about this idea.
  • Explore the potential of all 70 Glencairn students currently slated to stay at Red Cedar staying with Glencairn through permeable boundary requests while still redistricting 53 from Pinecrest, leaving Glencairn with too many students in second and third grades.
  • Holding the current Glencairn population at Red Cedar for another year and using the new Glencairn as a swing school for Pinecrest for the 2019-2020 school year. This would give the 70 students scheduled to stay at Red Cedar another year with their peers, but still separate them a year later. One issue is whether there is enough room for Pinecrest at Glencairn, even if Pinecrest’s special programming classrooms (Great Start Readiness and Autism Spectrum Disorder classroom) find homes at other schools.

Board members generally supported the first proposal, since it addresses the concerns of the majority of Pinecrest parents who spoke at the Nov. 12 meeting. None offered support for the second proposal.

The fourth proposal garnered the most discussion, and strong support from Trustee Karen Hoene.

“Simply leaving Glencairn at Red Cedar for another year reduces several transitions and it’s a closer move for Pinecrest,” Hoene said.

Trustees Hillary Henderson and Nichole Martin both suggested they would vote “no” on any redistricting proposals offered by the administration until the Board makes a decision as to the type of programming that would be offered at Red Cedar Elementary following the completion of all the District’s construction projects.

“Last time, everybody moved at the same time and that worked,” Henderson said. “I think that would be best for the District. Those are the two things where I’m going to stand my ground.”

Trustees Nell Kuhnmuench and Terah Chambers said they have not yet decided how they would vote on the redistricting proposals. Chambers did say the fourth option of keeping Glencairn at Red Cedar for another year is “a tough one for me” because it would disrupt the most students.

“I might prefer to see us wait on redistricting than do number four,” she said.

Trustee Erin Graham supports keeping Glencairn at Red Cedar for another year but is concerned whether Pinecrest would actually fit into the new Glencairn building. She said this solution would allow Glencairn and Red Cedar to stay together and be more convenient to Pinecrest.

Leyko said she talked with the faculty and staff at Glencairn and they expressed a preference to either all move to Glencairn together or stay together at Red Cedar for another year.

“I gauged it was their preference to move everybody back to Glencairn and then figure the rest out down the road,” Leyko said. “They strongly preferred staying at Red Cedar over going back and leaving some students from that boundary. They would prefer staying another year rather than leaving 70 behind to minimize the transitions for those children.“

Eleven parents commented to the Board regarding the redistricting proposals and school construction plans.

Glencairn father James Barger presented the board with a nine-page petition against keeping the 70 Glencairn students at Red Cedar through the transitions.

“We definitely want to right-size the schools but minimize transitions,” Barger said. “Don’t make the boundary decisions until all the buildings are built. We as a district can make that work for everybody.”

Patricia Jaimes is a mother at Glencairn and a doctoral student at Michigan State University and is concerned that the majority of students kept at Red Cedar through the transitions are children of international students.

“The voices of student parents, renters and international families are being ignored. I don’t see you addressing what Red Cedar families want,” Jaimes said. “These students will have difficultly developing friendships and maintaining long term relationships with their peers.”

Donley parent Bree Anderson expressed her concern about using Donley as a swing school for Whitehills and possibly Marble elementary schools for the next two years. Donley is currently using their old school while their new school is built on the same property. She said it has been difficult sharing the space with construction workers and said it is bound to be more difficult sharing it with a second school community.

“Multiple years as a swing school is concerning for many reasons. It’s going to be challenging in the best of circumstances,” Anderson said.

Three Pinecrest parents spoke out against moving students from their school into Glencairn, because they want to retain the ability to walk to school, and walking along Harrison is not realistic due to the speeds of traffic and flooding issues on the sidewalks.

“Taking these kids out of this school would be turning walking families into driving families,” said Regan Quick-Severin. “I hope East Lansing School District strives to make it easier to walk or bike to school not more difficult and less safe.”

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