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Livonia board to close 2 elementary schools

DetroitNews-Unknown

The Livonia Public Schools board voted Monday night to close two elementary schools, citing lower enrollment.

The move would save the district about $800,000 a year, officials said.

Dozens of parents and community members packed a board meeting to learn the fate of the two schools, which came late in the meeting.

The district, which also faces an estimated $2.8 million deficit, has seen lower student enrollment since the 2010-11 school year, district officials said. Cass and Garfield will close for the 2017-18 school year.

Garfield pupils are slated to attend Randolph and Kennedy; Cass general education pupils will go to Buchanan and Hoover, according to the district. Pupils in the Cass Center program, which serves children in grades K-4 with unique learning needs, would attend Randolph while Buchanan Center pupils head to Grant.

“This recommendation will allow the school district to decrease annual operating costs, re-appropriate bond and sinking fund allocations, and efficiently reorganize the utilization of our school facilities in response to the decline in student enrollment over the past five to 10 years,” officials said in a statement.

The move disturbed many parents who attended the board meeting. Some blasted the decision, worrying how their children and the community would be affected.

“We might now consider moving,” said Mary Kennedy, who was at the meeting with her 15-month-old daughter.

The district has seen an enrollment decline of more than 1,500 students since the 2010-11 school year, officials said.

In the last year, the district formed a committee of parents, staff and community members ahead of planned renovation projects connected to a $195 million bond voters approved in 2013. The committee examined enrollment and studied options to better use schools. One of the recommendations was to close Cass and Garfield.

Board members acknowledged the decision to close the schools was not easy.

“We have to decide tonight what’s best for the long-term stability of the district as a whole,” Mark Johnson told the audience.

School board President Colleen Burton said the savings from the closures could be used to replace textbooks and add kindergarten paraprofessionals.

“This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make as a board member, but I’m going to support the closure of the two buildings so I can put the money back in the classroom,” she said before the vote.

The decision rankled a Cass parent.

“This is fiscally irresponsible,” said Sheri Prush, whose daughter attends Cass.