Residents to vote today on proposed E.L. elementary school bond

East Lansing residents will head to the polls today with the fate of the city’s school system hanging in the balance and a $53 million bond proposal on the ballot.

The proposal would renovate and reconfigure five of the city’s six elementary schools, an issue that has drawn both heated criticism and strong support from community members, including MSU faculty with children in East Lansing schools.

If the proposal passes, it would lead to the rebuilding and redesigning of the district’s schools, with an eye toward improved technology infrastructure.

According to the district’s website, the bond proposal would reconfigure grade levels in the district, resulting in five K-5 schools and one middle school serving grades 6-8.

The bond proposal also would increase the number of K-5 teaching stations, or homerooms. Currently, the district has 72 teaching stations.

The proposal puts 75 teaching stations in place, for a total of 15 teaching stations spread across five schools.

Plans for the middle school component of the bond call for eight classrooms and two science labs, along with a separate wing of the middle school and separate drop-off and pickup areas, according to the district’s website.

Regardless of the outcome of the bond proposal, Red Cedar Elementary School, 1110 Narcissus Drive, will close down sometime before 2016 after a controversial vote from the school board.

East Lansing Public Schools Superintendent David Chapin said feedback regarding the bond proposal has poured into his office in recent months and weeks.

Chapin would not speculate on what decision residents might make.

“I remain cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a successful election on Tuesday,” he said. “I am very confident that we have an informed electorate.”

Voting against the bond proposal will only prolong confrontation in the community and reduce competitive educational opportunities in the district, said Trish Riley, a member of the Committee to Support East Lansing Public Schools.

Voting no could also close an additional one or two schools because the district might not be able to maintain funding for other school improvements in the future, Riley said.

“I believe in maintaining as many schools as possible,” she said. “Obviously, the Red Cedar School was taken offline based upon their geographic size.”

But some describe the current bond proposal as excessive.

Joanne Russell — vice president of the Red Cedar Neighborhood Association who said she will vote no on the proposal tomorrow — said the proposal lacked community input.

“It didn’t take into consideration the recommendations of the (Community Committee for K-8 Facilities), the city (or) MSU,” she said. “I believe it’s extravagant.”

Russell said she feels the community currently is leaning toward voting for the bond proposal, as most residents without children in school “just tend to vote yes.”

Polls in the city’s 17 voting precincts open at 7 a.m. today and will close at 8 p.m.

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