Parent’s Plea to School Board: Please Spare Donley From Another Year as Swing School

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 7:45 am
By: 
Karessa Wheeler

Board of Education members Terah Chambers (left) and Kate Powers at Monday’s meeting. (Photo by Raymond Holt)

Donley Elementary School is in the second year of construction-related disruption at its site on Lake Lansing Road, and at least one parent is asking the East Lansing Board of Education to make next year less chaotic.

As the only elementary school in the District with enough land to build a new elementary school without having to tear down the original building, Donley continued to operate last year as construction crews built the new building directly behind the school.

This year, as the Donley community moved into its new building, the students, staff and faculty of Whitehills Elementary relocated into Old Donley while their building — located just west of Donley — is torn down and rebuilt as part of the District’s elementary bond construction work.

“Fair is fair and equitable is equitable and having Donley be impacted for a third year of the bond is neither fair nor equitable,” said parent Bree Anderson.

The reconstruction of Marble Elementary School, 729 N. Hagadorn Road, is scheduled to begin in June 2020. But District administration officials have not decided whether to move the Marble community into the former Donley school or to the renovated Red Cedar Elementary School at the south end of town. Red Cedar served as the swing school for Glencairn Elementary in 2018-19 and now Pinecrest Elementary for 2019-20.

Red Cedar future uncertain

The future of Red Cedar’s programming and District boundaries has not been decided either. A Red Cedar Programming Committee hopes to have a suggestion for the kind of programming to be held in the school before the winter break, Superintendent Dori Leyko said.

Board President Erin Graham told ELi on Wednesday morning, "There is no intention to make any additional changes to district boundaries at this time. In addition, Red Cedar will house early childhood programming and elementary programming," but the details of this are still up in the air.

Anderson is concerned that the Board and administration will move forward with a plan to reopen Red Cedar prior to the reconstruction of Marble.

“Rumor has it that Donley will be a swing school for a third year,” Anderson told the board. “We have done our part. Please don’t make us do it again.”

The ongoing construction last year meant fourth and fifth grade classrooms were often distracted by outside noise, and much of the school's green space was occupied or unavailable for use. School activities such as Mileage Club and the “Donley Dash” had to be curtailed due to the construction. Both schools now share a playground which means some students are having lunch at 10:50 a.m. and they still don’t have access to green space, Anderson said.

Student drop-off and pick-up has been “a goat rodeo at best and we haven’t even had any snow,” said Anderson, who believes the old building is not as safe or appropriate as the renovated Red Cedar.

Also on Monday, the Board:

  • Approved a request for students in the high school German club to take a day trip to Chicago to experience the Christkindlemarkt when German vendors sell items at Daley Plaza.
  • Approved a one-time bonus for all District employees from a surplus of funds. Employees working 20 or more hours a week will receive $1,000 while employees regularly working fewer than 20 hours a week will receive $500. The total cost to the District is $390,000.
  • Approved the purchase of a Bobcat vehicle for $28,823 to remove snow and distribute salt along sidewalks at the District buildings during the winter.
  • Approved changes to the contract with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local #324 AFL-CIO to add full step and longevity advancement, and a 2 percent increase on steps 1 through 4, effective July 1, 2019.

 

Note: On Wednesday morning, we changed four words in the first sentence (from "sharing" to  "construction-related disruption at") and added Graham's statement about Red Cedar.

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