school will remain open, Woodland Hills School Board decided Wednesday after a repurposing plan failed to gain a majority vote.
The plan would have sent Edgewood students to other schools and used the building to house administration and the program for students with behavioral issues. Board members voted 5-3 against that plan, opting 7-1 to reopen a Rankin school that has been closed since 2009 to use specifically for the Wolverine Program.
The crowd of more than 70 received the decision with applause. Several residents spoke against the plan before the vote, including borough council members from Forest Hills and Edgewood. Both councils issued letters opposing the move.
“We’ve had an excellent experience there,” said Steve Karas, a Forest Hills councilman whose daughter attends Edgewood Elementary.
“Council, as well as numerous residents, have asked us to oppose the closing,” Karas said. “I believe you can save money in other places.”
To reopen the Rankin school, the board designated $50,000 for minor repairs. John Besseck, who supervises buildings and grounds, said the building is basically functional and will require little work before opening.
While most public comment against the repurposing pointed to Edgewood’s academic success, some questioned the board’s planning and transparency. Jennifer Alfieri wondered about the haste of the proposal and why the public wasn’t involved in the conversation sooner.
“You committed yourself to the task at hand and are supposed to represent our community,” Alfieri said. “How can the board support this without the significant planning to ensure that this will work now?”
Superintendent Alan Johnson said the idea had been discussed for months beforehand. The Wolverine Promise program, currently situated at the high school, is running out of room, Johnson said. And administrators wanted to expand the program to cover grades one through 12.
“It is really something I think we have already done a good job of perfecting,” Johnson said. “We have investigated and researched this thoroughly.”
Johnson said the program’s structure is already in place; the district won’t have to hire additional faculty, but simply move into the Rankin school.
Of the board members who voted in favor of repurposing the school—Robert Tomasic, Colleen Filiak and Regis Driscoll—issues such as excess building capacity and cost savings were cited as key factors. Filiak said yearly progress reports and academic success didn't factor into the consideration.
During budget discussions later, Secretary Joyce Sullivan said the plan was estimated to have saved roughly $175,000.
Even among members who voted to keep the school running, the future wasn’t rosy.
“Change is coming,” said Jeff Hanchett. “We’re going to have to change.”
President Marilyn Messina said decisions like this won’t be any easier next year, and board member Tara Reis predicted a “whole lot of public meetings.”
“We don’t have the students right now to justify all these buildings staying open,” Reis said.