MARQUETTE - Unwilling to make a decision without more input from the public, the members of the Marquette school board will be on hand at parent/teacher conferences this month to answer questions about the district's proposed grade alignment.
By unanimously voting at Monday's meeting to push back its Nov. 25 meeting until Dec. 2, the board is hoping to receive more feedback from parents and others in the community.
"I feel very strongly that we bodily need to be in those buildings to hear comments, answer questions in regards to the realignment that we are now going through the process," said Jean Hetrick, who made the motion to change the date. "I just think it is worth postponing our meeting."
Northern Michigan University international student Wenfei Kou from China, far left, speaks with students from the Marquette Alternative High School in October. The high school will be greatly affected should the Marquette school board decide to adopt a proposed grade realignment that would move the program from its current home in the Graveraet building to the Vandenboom Early Childhood Development Center. The board has been struggling with making a grade alignment decision for months. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Conferences are scheduled for Nov. 25 and 26 at each elementary school as well as Bothwell Middle School.
The board has been struggling to make a decision on the alignment proposed by its Strategic Planning Facilities Subcommittee in July, which would make all Marquette Area Public Schools current elementary schools K-5 buildings, along with the Graveraet building. It calls for the Marquette Alternative High School, currently housed within Graveraet, to move to the Vandenboom Early Childhood Development Center, displacing the Marquette County YMCA's early childhood program. Eliminating the YMCA's program has been one of the biggest issues - along with some board members expressing concerns over safety about putting elementary school students in the three-story Graveraet building.
Kristen Cambensy, parent of a fourth-grader at Superior Hills Elementary School, said during public comment she "didn't understand why my children have to be crammed into a classroom when Graveraet is two-thirds empty and Vandenboom is only half-used."
Superior Hills Principal Mike Woodard has repeatedly said instruction is taking place in hallways and closets in his school.
"The YMCA went into this partnership knowing Vandenboom was not their building and that if we needed it that MAPS would be able to use it again," said Cambensy, who has spoken up at several meetings in favor of the proposed grade alignment. "No one is stopping the YMCA from continuing their successful program in a different location. Leaving Vandenboom does not have to be the end of the YMCA program unless they want it to be."
Board President Rich Rossway said he and board member Laura Songer met with YMCA CEO Lisa Coombs-Gerou and members of the Y's board Friday to discuss the issue.
"We want to work together with the Y. We both have maybe a few different issues that we have to present with our organizations," Rossway said. "I teed up the meeting by (saying) the board represents the taxpayers of the community and that is our first and foremost responsibility."
Rossway said the meeting went well and he hoped a solution could be reached.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.