By Susan Bromley
Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School will close this year.
The school board unanimously approved a reconfiguration of buildings in the district during their Feb. 20 meeting to take effect for the 2017-18 school year. The plan will mean Kindergarten through fifth grades will be taught at Oakwood Elementary and Harvey Swanson Elementary schools, and Brandon Middle School will host sixth grade classes in addition to seventh and eighth. Brandon High School is unchanged, with 9th through 12 grades. Preschool will be housed at Harvey Swanson. The reorganization is expected to save the district at least $800,000.
“I think it was a strong decision by the board and we are able to move forward as a district in a more efficient and cost effective manner,” said Superintendent Matt Outlaw.
When the board first publicly discussed a reorganization of buildings in January, the proposal was to close Harvey Swanson as the oldest building in the district. Following a Jan. 25 community forum, however, the board shifted their focus to closing Fletcher, after determining it would be the more commercially viable property due to its location next to M-15 and because Harvey Swanson has athletic facilities that would be costly to replace.
The closure of a building is necessary as enrollment has declined to the point that school buildings are only at 50 percent capacity and shuttering a building will yield significant savings to the district which also suffers financially from the loss of students. Most savings will come from the reduction of staff.
The reorganization is the second for the district since 2013, when Belle Ann Elementary closed. That school, as well as the Sherman property owned by the district which formerly hosted the Sherman Lifelong Learning Center, may be sold soon. Plante Moran CRESA, real estate consultants which specialize in assisting schools with shedding unwanted properties, will bring a proposal to the next school board meeting for helping the district find buyers for Belle Ann, Sherman, and possibly Fletcher, too.
At the Feb. 20 meeting, some township residents raised concerns regarding increased traffic from the reorganization, particularly at Brandon Middle School and possible impacts on M-15.
“Adding another grade, even if it’s just 20 more cars (picking up and dropping off students) is too many,” said Glynnis Hubbard. “There will be an accident waiting to happen every morning. MDOT says there is no problem (on M-15 based on traffic studies), but there is going to be a problem. Something needs to be done before fall.”
Proposed bus routes that would put sixth grade students with high school students were also a concern.
“I won’t put my child on a bus with high school students, so that is more traffic right there,” said Dana DePalma. “One way to alleviate this is separate bus routes for the elementary, middle school and high school.”
Outlaw said Tuesday he will be meeting with Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Greg Glover, Brandon substation commander, to discuss traffic issues, not only with main roads, but pick-up for buses and cars on school property.
“At the middle school, the challenge is turning left and going south (on M-15),” Outlaw noted. “We have a proposal for using the service drive between the high school and middle school to steer traffic to the light at the high school… This is just brainstorming from educators. We need input from the experts— police and the road commission. We’re very serious and want traffic to be optimal. We’ll start early and come up with a solution right away.”