Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

February 12, 2014

TCAPS to keep schools open

TRAVERSE CITY — Interlochen Elementary School and other aging Traverse City Area Public Schools facilities are safe — for now.

TCAPS board members agreed this week to spend about $1.2 million to extend the lives of Interlochen and Eastern elementary schools for five to seven years. The decision effectively ended any discussion, at least in the short term, about TCAPS closing Interlochen Elementary, one of a handful of options board members faced in the aftermath of the district's most recent bond failure.

"I think it’s great they are looking at saving the schools and keeping them open for the sake of the students," said Jennifer Emery, the parent of a first grade student at Interlochen Elementary School and secretary of the school's Parent Teacher Organization.

TCAPS' new plan allocates about $715,000 for several projects at Interlochen Elementary, including replacing the school's roof, and about $465,000 to replace the roof and public address system at Eastern, district documents show.

Board members stressed those fixes are not a long-term solution to TCAPS' capital problems, but they do buy district officials time to study other capital plan options and to prepare another bond question for voters in 2015.

Board member Scott Hardy said it doesn't make financial sense to spend roughly $700,000 on upgrades at Interlochen Elementary School, given the building could be demolished and rebuilt if voters approve a bond proposal in 2015.

"It's money you can't recoup if you tear that building down," Hardy said.

But Hardy and other board members agreed the benefits to keeping schools like Interlochen open outweigh any financial drawbacks.

"The reward attained from that is the retention of a community school in a village center that is consistent with both the TCAPS vision for our school district as well as, for example, the (Grand Traverse) County Planning Commission’s emphasis on strengthening village centers," board President Kelly Hall said on Tuesday.

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