What is the Future of Wardcliff Elementary?

What is the Future of Wardcliff Elementary?

OKEMOS - Nearly 100 "Reopen Wardcliff" signs are scattered all throughout a small, quaint neighborhood.

But why?

Michael Kieliszewski lives in the neighborhood surrounding the now-closed school. He went to Wardcliff when he was young and now wishes his kids were able to attend the school as well.

"Basically this school has been kind of the hub of the community for as long as I can remember, and it would be great if it was reopened for students to come back here," Kieliszewski said.

Jesse Green is advocating for the reopening of the school as well. He says it is the best option for the small neighborhood surrounding the school and the overall community.

"The benefit of a neighborhood school is obvious - it's established," Green said. "But in this neighborhood, given that we're sort of out in the corner of the Okemos School District kind of stuck out here by ourselves, this really is sort of the is the glue that holds the neighborhood together."

Wardcliff Elementary School closed in 2010 due to declining enrollment. However, enrollment is now increasing throughout the Okemos School District and with different project and development options on the table, the school board has some tough decisions to make.

But these local residents part of a campaign called "Families for Reopening Wardcliff School" say, it should be an easy one.

At the Okemos School Board meeting on March 14, members of the local campaign showed up for public comment to make sure the board members knew there were people that cared about their cause.

"I really encourage you to reopen Wardcliff. It was such a wonderful school and so cost effective," Barbara Curtis said in front of the board during public comment.

During the meeting Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross laid out a detailed plan of when and how the board will discuss new projects and redevelopments. The fate of Wardcliff will be decided during this process.

President of the School Board Dean Bolton addressed Wardcliff during the meeting and said the board will assess the school and other options on dealing with growing enrollment.

"And with this now beginning this facilities assessment, it is included in that assessment and we will be accepting all the information about Wardcliff and Edgewood," Bolton said.

Community Conversations have been put in place by the board to help closely listen to concerns of local residents. And while the superintendent is certain there will be more of these Community Conversations, members of the local campaign say they haven't seen much interest from the school board regarding Wardcliff, especially when the board didn't include the school in a 16 page March study on how to accommodate growing enrollment. The study included options of building new schools, but did not mention reopening Wardcliff once.

Betsy Montgomery has lived in the neighborhood surrounding Wardcliff for 30 years. She says she wants the board to at least include Wardcliff in the conversation. This small neighborhood doesn't feel in the loop of the decisions that the board is making.

"I feel like we want the opportunity to get relevant information and data being openly discussed," Montgomery said. "And when it's all done, if Wardcliff's not open I feel we're gona feel heard and invested in whatever the eventual outcome is."

This neighborhood is willing to fight for the reopening of their beloved Wardcliff. But the fate of the school still remains uncertain with much discussion to be had by the board. And these motivated residents are determined to not let Wardcliff get lost in that conversation.

For more information on the Reopen Wardcliff campaign you can visit their informational Facebook page, "Families for Reopening Wardcliff School".

The next Okemos School Board Meeting will be on May 21 at the Administration Center.

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