The East Lansing Public Schools’ Board of Education met on Monday, June 14, and addressed multiple topics, including the renaming of Pinecrest Elementary in honor of Civil Rights leader Robert L. Green, summer programming including food distribution, and the upcoming school year.
Will Pinecrest Elementary get a new name?
During the period of the meeting set aside for open Board Discussion, Trustee Kath Edsall announced she intended to introduce a motion later in the summer to rename Pinecrest Elementary in honor of Dr. Robert L. Green, former MSU faculty and a national civil rights leader who also advocated for positive social change in East Lansing when he and his family lived here.
ELi reported in April that an ad-hoc committee consisting of the City’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Administrator Elaine Hardy, Parks & Rec Advisory Commissioner Adam DeLay, City Council Member Ron Bacon, and Human Rights Commissioner Karen Hoene were applying for establishment of a State Historic Marker, which would tell the story of racist housing discrimination in East Lansing and the significance of Green’s efforts and work.
Edsall announced on Monday that the committee has received approval for the historical marker, and the marker will indeed include Green’s name – a notable exception to historic marker regulations, since markers usually only contain the names of deceased individuals.
According to Edsall, the marker will be placed outside the Greens’ former home at 207 Bessemaur Drive in East Lansing.
In 1964, Green lodged a groundbreaking complaint with the Federal Housing Administration office in Grand Rapids after he had been denied the opportunity to buy a home at 341 Southlawn Ave. in East Lansing. Green did not buy that house, but broke discriminatory barriers when he purchased a home at 207 Bessemaur Drive. His children are believed to be among the first to integrate Pinecrest Elementary and the East Lansing Public Schools.
Edsall said she plans to have the ad-hoc committee make a presentation to the School Board, to hold public hearings, and then to bring forward a motion to rename Pinecrest after Green. Edsall said that after reviewing the land grant regulations, there seems to be no prohibition on naming the school after a person – living or deceased.
President Terah Chambers, who also chairs the Board’s Policy Committee, said she thinks that the district would need to establish a policy or process for renaming a school since it currently does not have one.
Edsall said she believed the major cost would be signage changes, and she advocated for a permanent installation inside the renamed school to honor Green.
What is going on at ELPS this summer?
Summer educational programs are currently underway with about 400 students attending in person. Class sizes are being evaluated to see if students on the waiting list can be accommodated.
Free meal distributions will continue throughout the summer for those in need. Those attending in-person programs can pick up meals then. Otherwise, weekly distributions consisting of 7 breakfasts and 7 lunches per person will be held weekly until August 23 on Mondays at:
- East Lansing High School from 12 p.m.-1 p.m.
- University Village Apartments from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
- Spartan Village from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
The East Lansing High School track will also be open to the public daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The district requests that you only use the track and remain off the field. Please do not bring pets. The public should also anticipate that the track may be closed from time to time to accommodate events.
The district will also continue construction on elementary schools this summer and plans to have the new elementary buildings open by the fall. Demolition on Donley was scheduled for this past Wednesday, after asbestos abatement had been completed.
A look ahead to the fall
At Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Dori Leyko announced tentative plans for the fall start of the new school year, which are subject to change. Currently, the district plans to offer only in-person learning for students in grades 7-12 since vaccines are available to those 12 and older.
Since the vaccine has not yet been approved for children under age 12, a remote option may be available for students in grades K-6 until winter break.
Families should expect to receive a survey in July, and mask requirements will be communicated before the start of the school year.
Following a public hearing in which no one from the public made comment, the Board approved the budget for the 2021-2022 Fiscal Year. You can see Finance Director Richard Pugh’s presentation on the budget here.
The Board later approved the millage rates for the upcoming year.
Leyko also announced that several administrators had met with the editorial team of Portrait, the student newspaper at ELHS, to address concerns that the team expressed in an open letter. Although the town hall that the students called for did not happen this school year, students and administrators discussed how to incorporate student voices into existing structures. There are currently plans for students to participate in the work of the Board’s Policy Committee and Academic and Technology Committee.
A look back on the 2020-2021 school year
The Board also heard presentations from the Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) and the administrative team for the elementary schools.
The MHAC recapped many of the actions it took during the school year. ELi previously reported on that when it announced the launch of the Trojan Mental Health Matters website by the MHAC.
In addition to providing resources for students and destigmatizing mental health concerns, the MHAC worked to provide resources for parents and students with marginalized identities.
The Board also heard a “Year in Review” presentation from the principals of the six elementary schools. While acknowledging the difficulties of remote education, the presentation largely focused on resilience, lessons learned, and collaborative work among the administrators.
Like their middle and high school counterparts, the elementary team has focused on equity and justice by continuing to train staff to work with equity teams and holding a staff book club. There has also been an effort to fill libraries with more diverse books, thanks in part to grants from the East Lansing Educational Foundation.
At the Board meeting, the Board also wished farewell to the departing Class of 2021 Trojans as well as to four staff members, who are retiring after collectively serving for over 90 years.