Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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School officials in Adrian seek to calm critics

Adrian Public Schools officials are waging a public relations campaign to appease parents upset with the pending closing of two antiquated neighborhood elementary schools.

Beginning in the fall, students from Garfield and McKinley will be moved to Prairie Elementary, near the airport, and Michener schools. Prairie, closed several years, has been renovated, as has Michener, which is closed this year.

Superintendent Del Cochran said the district laments having to move students from their neighborhood schools - many of them within walking distance - but the newer buildings will have larger classrooms, new gymnasiums and kitchens, media centers, and be in far better condition than the 80-plus-year-old buildings they are replacing. Staffs from Garfield and McKinley will be dispersed among Prairie and Michener.

"You won't see a lot of difference [in personnel]," Mr. Cochran said. "What you will see are upgraded classrooms and [new] technology."

The building upgrades are being paid for from a bond issue voters approved in May, 2004, that will raise $50 million.

Still, a number of parents, particularly those living in the McKinley district in East Adrian whose children are accustomed to walking to school, are disappointed with the changes.

"I'm very unhappy," said Faythe Emens of West Adrian, whose 6-year-old son, Diego, is a special-needs student at McKinley.

"He needs to be in familiar surroundings, so I'm concerned about him going to a new building next year."

Ms. Emens voted for the bond issue, in part, because she said the school board promised it would keep the older neighborhood schools open and use some of the money to renovate them.

Even more upset than Ms. Emens is Alicia Rumsey, whose second-grade twins attend McKinley.

"I'm probably going to pull them out of Adrian schools altogether," she said.

Two years ago, her children attended McKinley. Last year they were at Michener. This year, they're back at McKinley.

"I can understand them wanting to improve the schools," she said. "It's the way they've done it."

Ms. Rumsey said a number of her children's friends have transferred to the nearby Madison School District, where she likely will send her children next year.

"They are losing people to these surrounding schools. It's not a good situation," she said.

School board member Ron Riley said the district had no choice.

"It's all about money and budgets. It's something we had to do. Yes, some people are upset, but there hasn't been a lot of negative [comments]. We're going to have three brand-new schools.

"We didn't do this to drive students away from the school district. We did it to bring them back," he said.

Garfield Principal Deborah Agnew, who will move to Prairie next year, said she understands better than most the emotional attachment some parents - and students - have toward Garfield and McKinley. She attended Garfield as a youngster.

"No one likes closing a school at all," said Ms. Agnew, whose children attend Adrian schools. "With the economy the way it is, the superintendent is being very cautious with our money. Overall, Adrian is definitely looking toward the future.

"The community backed us on this. The new technology is going to be a big boost for these kids."

Mr. Cochran said he is not ruling out reopening McKinley in the future, should the district add several hundred students to its elementary enrollment of 1,362. He said plans also included turning Garfield into an early childhood development center.

Alexander Elementary presently is being renovated, but the school remains open. Lincoln Elementary will undergo exterior renovation next year, in addition to having a new media center built, but will remain open, giving the district four elementary schools with 76 total classrooms.

Mr. Cochran said he hopes to appease critics such as Ms. Emens and Ms. Rumsey through a series of open houses scheduled this spring in the renovated buildings.

"We'll bring students, their families, and people in the community in for a walk-through and try to make it a welcome situation. This is a one-time- only situation," he said.

Even Ms. Emens concedes that time will heal most of the hard feelings.

"The kids will adjust, because kids adjust to almost anything. They will be nicer buildings, aesthetically. But there still are going to be empty buildings; it's a shame the children can't go to school closer to home."

Contact George Tanber at: or 734-241-3610.

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