Short Meeting at East Lansing School Board, But Lots of Action

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

The recent hiring of Jerry Jones as Student Advocate at ELHS has helped many students, but the faculty demographics don't come close to reflecting students' demographics in ELPS.

The Board of Education for the East Lansing Public Schools met yesterday evening for a meeting that lasted only a half-hour but that packed in lots of news.

East Lansing High School ranks high

The meeting began with good news, namely that East Lansing High School ranked in the top five percent of schools ranked by US News and World Report in Michigan, placing at 32nd in the state and 1,043rd in the national rankings. Okemos High School ranked 9th in the state and 438thnationally.

In the area identified as “Lansing Metro Area,” East Lansing ranked third, with Okemos in first place and Pewamo-Westphalia coming in second. (Find a searchable list here.)

Elementary school construction – uncertainty remains

Stay-at-home orders continue to limit construction on schools at least through May 15. The ELPS construction oversight team met with Clark Construction representatives on Friday, just two hours before Governor Whitmer extended the order. Clark is the lead contractor for the construction of the new Pinecrest and Whitehills schools, work that is currently stalled.

Superintendent Dori Leyko stated that she had hoped construction would be able to resume May 1, but Governor Gretchen Whitmer didn’t allow that. Leyko is now optimistic that it might be possible to restart on May 15. As Michigan slowly reopens its economy – last Friday the governor permitted a number of businesses to reopen while observing some social distancing measures – Leyko believes school construction may be part of the next wave.

Stalled construction at Whitehills Elementary (photo for ELi by Gary Caldwell)

Last night the ELPS School Board unanimously moved to rescind a contract award to Kerkstra Precast for construction at Marble Elementary since Kerkstra failed to sign the contract. Kerkstra wanted changes to the contract that the district’s lawyer, Thrun Law Firm, recommended against, indicating the district should not amend the contract for one contractor.

The requested changes to the contract were not explained at the meeting or in the materials provided on the agenda.

The Board also voted to give the work taken away from Kerkstra to Davenport, who had also bid on the work, a move that will cost the district an additional $7,000.

School of Choice spots added, but not in grades 6-12

On April 12, the Board received a detailed recommendation regarding the superintendent’s recommendation on Schools of Choice. That detailed recommendation has not been shared with the public by Leyko or the Board.

ELPS Board President Erin Graham during last night’s meeting

Last night the Board unanimously followed Leyko’s summary recommendations for the 2020-21 school year, approving the following spaces for new spots:

Young Fives/Kindergarten     9

1st grade                                 5

2nd grade                                5

3rd grade                                 19

4th grade                                 10

5th grade                                 11

6th to 12th grade                     0

Total:                                      59

Board Treasurer Kath Edsell inquired as to why the Board had not included spots for grades 6-12, noting that in the past, spots had been created to accommodate siblings transfering into the school district together.

Leyko explained that due to an increase in residential student enrollment, some ELPS class sizes were above their normal sizes. Therefore, she did not recommend adding more students in grades 6-12.

Planned high school graduation is cancelled

Following on the cancellation of ELHS prom as it had been planned, graduation as it had been planned is now also cancelled. Leyko said that a survey has been developed to gather feedback from seniors for alternatives to the two events. It should be distributed in the upcoming days.

School year will not be extended, and distance learning is running

Due to waivers granted in the executive order, the school year will not have to be extended to meet the 180-day requirement. The school year will end as planned on June 5, with an ending date of May 22 for high school seniors.

ELPS Superintendent Dori Leyko speaks during last night’s meeting

As per the district’s Continuity of Learning plan, instructional packets were mailed home last Wednesday, and assignments and material were posted online Monday. Leyko said that ELPS would begin collecting feedback from parents and students next week. Teachers and administrators will also track participation in each building.

Food services contract awarded

The Board unanimously voted to renew the contract for Chartwells School Dining for its food services. (Contract materials are in the agenda packet.) The initial contract had been approved for the 2018-2019 academic year and permitted one-year renewals. The Michigan Department of Education, which must oversee these renewals, has given its approval.

Chartwells’ employees have been helping with meal distribution while in-person classes are suspended.

Committee Meetings

The Board’s Finance Committee will meet Wednesday, April 209, at 2 p.m. and is open to the public.

The Academic and Technology Committee will meet at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 30, and is also open to the public.

The Intergovernmental Committee is scheduled to meet June 1 with East Lansing’s City Council and may hold a joint meeting with Meridian Township’s Board at some point in the future.

Other committees are currently working on scheduling meetings.

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