East Lansing Board Could Speed Up Red Cedar Closure

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The future of an East Lansing elementary school and the look of the entire district is going up for a Monday vote.

The new plan would reaffirm the closing of Red Cedar and shutter the school to students earlier than expected. Red Cedar would house administration and other school programing, under the plan. The remaining five elementaries would be reconfigured.

Many parents are fired up about the measure because it's similar to a $53 million bond proposal voters denied in February. The bond would have funded the reconstruction of five schools. The school board narrowly approved closing the sixth, Red Cedar, about a year ago. The closure was set to take effect in 2016.

Details are still being worked out, but according to Superintendent David Chapin, the new plan would have Red Cedar students moving in fall of 2014.

Parents feel the measure blatantly ignores voters and is being unfairly pushed through by a lame duck board.

"You have a school here that's successful, that other districts are trying to model," parent Matt Gillard said.

Gillard has two children at Red Cedar and can't understand why the East Lansing School District is still trying to close the elementary. In his mind, it's an education leader and a school voters have already stood up to save.

Liz Schweitzer is also opposed. She feels the board isn't listening and hasn't provided enough rationale for a Red Cedar closure.

"Well over 50 percent of the voters in February voted against the bond proposal, yet it's pretty much identical to what's being considered at tonight's board meeting," Schweitzer said.

Chapin disagrees. He says the current plan is different because it doesn't cost the community any money. According to Chapin, voter surveys have proven taxpayers weren't thinking about Red Cedar in February, but their bottom line.

"It was about money," he added. "It was about the increase in the tax bill, those were the key reasons."

The new measure isn't Chapin's plan, but it does line up with district goals. Chapin says changing conditions demand streamlined districts and East Lansing sticks out with the number of schools it has open.

While Chapin says Red Cedar is a great school, he says it's not really a neighborhood school as many parents claim. A good portion of Red Cedar students are bused in, or attend under school choice.

"We're trying to locate our schools at the end of the day where our students are," Chapin said. "At present our Red Cedar population is declining significantly."

Parents feel there is a way to keep all East Lansing schools open, but only if the school board keeps an open mind.

"Hopefully there can be some new perspective, some new thought process to help the district move forward, help the community move forward," Gillard said.

The Monday vote will be taken by East Lansing's current school board, including the President Rima Addiego, who lost her bid for re-election. Two new members of the school board won't be sworn in until mid January.

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