Superintendent Announces Plans for Marble, Red Cedar, Donley Schools

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Monday, November 18, 2019, 12:42 pm
Karessa Wheeler

Above: Photo of the annual Marble Spaghetti Dinner by Jim Pivarnik.

Late Friday afternoon, East Lansing Schools Superintendent Dori Leyko sent out a letter to parents announcing a series of eagerly awaited decisions for the 2020-21 school year: the population of Marble Elementary will be head to Donley Elementary while Marble is rebuilt, and Red Cedar Elementary will house preschool through third grade classes.

For the entire next academic year, the population of Marble Elementary School, the last of East Lansing’s elementary schools to be rebuilt under a $94 million bond, will be housed in the old Donley Elementary School building. “Old Donley” is currently is housing Whitehills’ students and staff.

Housing Marble in old Donley instead of Red Cedar School means that the District will be able to run Red Cedar as an early childhood education center and a neighborhood elementary school for grades K to 3.

According to Leyko’s letter, throughout the next academic year Red Cedar will house two Great Start Readiness classes, two Young 5’s classrooms, Early Childhood Special Education, and K-3 classrooms. The plan is to have the school add one 4th grade classroom in fall 2021 and one 5th grade classroom in the fall of 2022. (ELPS middle school starts in grade 6.)

Red Cedar “basin” students who will be in 4th and 5th grades next fall will finish their elementary years at Glencairn and then move on to MacDonald Middle School with their age mates throughout the District.

“This configuration is based on the number of current students at each grade level in the Red Cedar boundary,” Leyko wrote. “The possibility of alternative programming and/or an alternative calendar may still be explored in the future with the future Red Cedar administration, staff and families.”

The decision to temporarily house Marble’s population in old Donley was made in part because all the new schools were built to be smaller than the original buildings, Leyko wrote.

“The primary factor [in the decision-making is] that we will not have enough elementary classrooms in the District to house our current classes if we demolish and complete Phase 2 at Donley this summer and Marble is housed at Red Cedar,” Leyko wrote.

“Nearly all of our new buildings contain fewer classrooms than the buildings that have been demolished and cannot accommodate all of the programming that is planned to be housed at Red Cedar long term. With only five buildings (four new and Red Cedar) online next school year, the district would be at least 3-4 elementary classrooms short, which includes using all four STEAM/flex classrooms in the new buildings for elementary classrooms.”

This move to use old Donley as the Marble population’s temporary school is supported by a number of parents currently at Marble Elementary, who expressed concern about the longer distance children would have to travel to Red Cedar instead of Donley.

However, one Donley parent publicly expressed concern about operating two schools on the same site for two years, and her frustration has been seconded by numerous other Donley parents commenting on our report on the issue.

Because Donley’s campus had a relatively large amount of available land for structures, the District was able to keep the old Donley school in place while building the new Donley school last year. Starting this fall, the Donley population moved into the new building while Whitehills moved into the old Donley building.

Next year will mark the third year of disruption at the Donley campus caused by the district-wide construction.

Leyko acknowledged in her letter that there are “limitations” resulting from having two school populations on one campus, and promised to “evaluate and respond” to the feedback from staff and families.

Note: ELi will be working on follow-up stories on these plans. If you have a comment you wish to share on the record, contact us with your comment and name, and please specify what you see as your relation to the issue (parent, taxpayer, teacher etc.).

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