WLCSD board of education approves Community Education Center closure
Walled Lake Consolidated School District’s board of education members took action on a recommendation that was years in the making, voting 6-1 to close the historic Community Education Center in downtown Walled Lake at their March 2 meeting.
Board Secretary Greg Janicki made the motion, which read: “I move the board of education approve the administration’s recommendation to close the Community Education Center following the 2016-17 school year and relocate programs to other available district facilities and further approve planning for the demolition and sale of the building site.”
Board members weigh in on decision before vote
During the lengthy discussion that followed, all board members had something to say; most believed the decision was necessary and were ready to vote for it.
During the time between their February and March meetings, most board members were able to join a tour of the CEC building to see first-hand its problems, among which, said Treasurer Nancy van Leuwen, is the fact that it would take about $6 million to repair everything that needs to be fixed in the building. “We have spent years with the knowledge that this building was being threatened by a number of things.” In addition to the expense of its maintenance, some areas of the building are inaccessible, particularly to the Transition Program students, while others are, frankly, dangerous.
Closing the CEC was something the WLCSD Board of Education had discussed many times; in fact, Trustee Marc Siegler, who went through numerous years of notes to find this information, said, “We started talking about the closing of the Community Education Center in 1998, but we were in a period of growth [then.]” He added, “We have to do what is best for everyone in the community.”
Janicki said, “I have confidence in this district and this community, that you would not let us do anything stupid … You’ll make sure we do it right.” He added that it was by no means “an easy ‘slam dunk’ decision” but that “I think this is the right thing for us to do.”
Denise Dunn, the newest trustee, felt it wouldn’t hurt to have more details in place and delaying the vote another month. “I think it would be worth our time to give it a little more time,” Dunn said; as a result, she voted against the motion.
Public reiterates Transition Program concerns
Parents and others, including a current student, spoke about relocating the Transition Program to Walled Lake Western High School during the public comment prior to the motion, discussion and vote; the comments were similar to those made at two community forums held February 8 and 28.
The Transition Program helps young adult learners who have received special education services, are qualified for continuing special services through Oakland Schools, are over 18 and have completed four years of high school learn how to be as independent as possible.
Two of those commenting were a mother and daughter. Linda Roberts said that her daughter, Jenny, has special needs and has been in WLCSD many years and really got a lot out of the transition program. Roberts thinks the CEC is the best place for it. “I wanted to tell you how great that building really is.”
By closing the CEC, she said, “They’re going to lose a lot of independence.” She pleaded their case with board members, saying, “Keep the building or put it off until you come up with a better solution than a high school building.”
Siegler stated it’s up to the board to ensure that the district makes the best possible use of its buildings. In looking at the CEC closure and relocation of programs, he said, “I feel that Western will be a phenomenal place to place many of the programs.” He added, “We need to, as a board, allow the parents to see the plans” and give input.