Some East Lansing Public Schools’ facilities are getting upgrades – including new athletic fields at the high school and outdoor learning spaces at the elementary schools – according to a presentation made by GMB Architecture and Engineering at the East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Monday, Jan. 24.
East Lansing High School will be getting upgrades to the athletic field and tennis courts, and construction on those projects will begin in late spring.
GMB’s representative at the meeting described the football field’s new turf – including graphics, durability, and longevity – as well as how the field will be lined in four different colors to accommodate four sports: football, soccer, and boys and girls lacrosse. The field will also be accessible for band practice.
Electrical and data lines will be added to the field to allow for easier use of scoreboards and sound equipment. Hosting events, such as graduations and band performances, will be easier, according to ELPS Athletic Director Nikki Norris, who was present at the meeting.
The tennis courts at ELHS will be renovated to be constructed of post-tension concrete, which is said to be an investment in durable and long-term courts that will not experience wear and tear as quickly as the current courts.
Despite calls from parents at a Dec. 2021 School Board meeting to reconsider tennis court plans to include ten courts, the planned tennis court configuration will include only eight courts. The footprint will be expanded slightly to accommodate an additional corridor and walkway in the middle of and around the eight courts.
During public comment, a woman who identified herself as a “tennis parent,” requested more information regarding the decision for the location of the corridor and walkway. She also asked for clarification concerning how there is room for these additions but not for two more courts.
The ELPS School Board does not directly answer questions posed during public comments, but President Kate Powers said she would follow up with the parent after the meeting.
The construction on the ELHS athletic field will begin the first week of June and is planned to be completed the first week of August. Tennis court construction will begin the last week of May and should be complete by the beginning of August.
According to Athletic Director Nikki Norris, who was present at the meeting, contingency plans are in place to ensure no games will be missed in the case that construction lasts longer than is intended.
All of East Lansing’s six elementary schools are getting outdoor learning spaces.
Superintendent Dori Leyko announced in September that leftover bond money would be spent on creating outdoor spaces at the elementary school.
In 2017, East Lansing voters approved a bond to renovate and reconstruct the district’s elementary schools. It generated $93.77 million for the district, and approximately $3 million remains.
These outdoor learning spaces, as presented by GMB, will look the same across the district – pavilions with a space for precipitation to drip into a water basin on the ground level. The basins are intended to allow for student interaction and teaching.
The intention of this space, GMB representatives said, is to mimic the classroom, create a dedicated, expanded core-curriculum space; be green; make space for exploration; and be accessible to all.
Built-in seating under the pavilion will not be included, but teachers may be able to bring furniture outside if necessary.
In addition to the outdoor learning space, Red Cedar will also be getting an interior courtyard renovation. The concept for the renovated courtyard is, “The World’s Biomes,” and it will include areas that represent several of the world’s different environments.
It will include a small amphitheater, sandy areas to play in, a high lookout point, and an accessible roadway loop to connect it all.
Absences are down, and the district is still updating Covid-19 case data daily.
A student representative advised the Board that attendance had improved at the high school, after a couple of weeks with hundreds of students missing class at the high school.
The district is also continuing its Covid-mitigation efforts, including hosting a booster clinic this Thursday. Leyko also reminded families that Michigan State University is partnering with the Ingham County Health Department to hold vaccine clinics on campus this Wednesday, Jan. 26, and next Monday, Jan. 31.
Leyko was able to secure KN95 and KF94 masks for adults and students and that those will be available in buildings for anyone who needs them.
The district is making contingency plans to cope with a forecasted shortage of rapid tests that is expected to affect the entire country. Leyko said that she will stay on top of ordering tests and that the district currently has a supply on hand.
If tests do run out, students will be allowed to attend school as long as themselves and their close contacts are asymptomatic, fully-masked, and wearing a high-grade mask, which aligns with the CDC’s guidelines. For now, those under 17 years old who have received two shots are considered fully vaccinated.
The Board discussed improvements to an agenda item: Board Discussion.
At Kate Powers’ second meeting as President of the Board this term, she used the Board Discussion portion of the meeting to talk to her fellow constituents about Board Discussion.
Powers described how ‘Board Discussion’ has been a standing agenda item that allows members to bring up topics during the meeting for further discussion, but she argued that maybe this was not the best use of the Board’s time.
She suggested having topics of discussion already placed on the agenda prior to arriving at the meeting, allowing members to gather their thoughts and comments instead of being caught off guard and having to speak on important matters without preparation.
Trustee Elizabeth Lyons said, “I’m for your idea, I just want to make sure we’re still open,” suggesting that it’s important to still allow for spur of the moment conversations during Board Discussion if necessary.