Monday evening Lapeer Community Schools’ officials held their first focus group meeting following a recent announcement about plans to “right-size” the district to reflect a continued downward trend in student enrollment.
Owed mostly to a declining birth rate, as new parents simply aren’t having as many children, if any at all, compared to earlier generations when households of three, four or more children were typical in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Not anymore.
As a result, LCS officials are confronted with a new and stark reality. Gone are the peak days in 1982 when the sprawling 225-square-mile school district had nearly 9,000 students and could sustain two high schools. In 2004, LCS operated 16 school buildings with 12 different grade configurations.
Coupled with declining enrollment and schools of choice where parents have options to send their children to other neighboring school districts, LCS officials have come to terms that further district consolidation is necessary to remain competitive in the education marketplace.
LCS officials plan to ask voters in November 2019 to support a major reconfiguration of the district’s structure. The proposal calls for the reduction of the number of school facilities from 13 to eight by closing and selling Murphy, Mayfield and Lynch Elementary schools as well as the Administrative Service Center on Second Street in Lapeer, which would save the district approximately $1 million to $1.5 million annually in operational and personnel costs.
If the November 2019 bond proposal is approved, implementation of the building changes would occur between 2020-2022.
Attendees at the Monday focus group were asked to weigh in on the current proposals, two options that would see the district constrict in size to five full-time facilities. In both plans, Early 5/ Kindergarten, Early Childhood Special Education and Kids and Co. would be housed at Schickler, Zemmer would be the site for early elementary grades and Rolland-Warner would house upper elementary. The current high school on the site of Lapeer East would become the district’s middle school and high schoolers would call the current site at Lapeer West home.
A second focus group meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28 at Rolland-Warner Middle School — an opportunity for district residents to hear from Superintendent Matt Wandrie who will present the process and timeline in which LCS officials are moving toward the November 2019 bond proposal. LCS parents and district residents will also be afforded the opportunity at the meeting to provide input on the ambitious proposal following Wandrie’s state-of-the district presentation.
The LCS campaign to explain and advocate for the bond proposal will begin in January, after which time more opportunities for the public to become directly involved on committee assignments will become available.
For the next couple of months LCS is an information gathering stage, said Wandrie, when he and other school officials plan to make themselves accessible to the public as much as possible. Wandrie will visit with local civic, service and non-profit organizations to explain the LCS plan, and welcomes citizen calls to his office so he may speak directly with the public regarding their concerns and questions while inviting them to become part of the process.
Make plans to attend the next “right-size” focus group meeting, on Nov. 28, to hear directly from Wandrie and LCS officials regarding the proposal. Citizens have one year before the bond proposal is up for a vote. Make the most of the time. It will go quick. Now is the time to ask questions to understand it.