TRAVERSE CITY — Location and gradespan.
Those two decisions — two of the biggest in the construction of the new Montessori at Glenn Loomis School — could be made Monday.
Members of the Montessori visioning task force met last week to finalize the recommendation to build the new school along 14th Street directly east of Thirlby Field and to serve students from the time they are toddlers through eighth grade. That recommendation will go before the full Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Education on Monday.
If trustees approve the plan, that sets in place the timeline to have the new Montessori school open to staff and students by fall 2021. TCAPS Associate Superintendent Christine Thomas-Hill said if trustees cannot reach a consensus, that opening date will be pushed back a year.
"Pushing this decision to Feb. 11 is kind of pushing it to the last possible day," Thomas-Hill said. "If the board is not comfortable making this decision or they don't feel like they have enough information, then we spend more time internally having conversations about what more due diligence we need to do."
Glenn Loomis currently serves kindergarten through sixth grade, but Principal Lisa Van Loo said she and her staff are "extremely passionate about adding seventh and eighth grade." She said parents are in a difficult position of having their children transition from sixth grade at Glenn Loomis to the second year of middle school at another building.
"The other kids there have already created their friendship groups, so it's a tough ask for our parents and students to stay through sixth grade," Van Loo said. "Adding seventh and eighth grade would be the perfect end to that experience, and we feel like we can nail it."
The addition of two grades calls for a bigger building. Thomas-Hill said the plan is to have 22 classrooms — two toddler classrooms, six each for the Children's House and lower elementary, five for upper elementary and three for middle school — that can serve between 500-550 students. That would be six more rooms than Glenn Loomis has now.
The current design is a two-story building with more than 68,000 square feet of space along with outside areas for gardens and greens spaces, playfields and playgrounds, and a 100-spot parking lot. The plans also have an additional 80 parking spots along the pick-up/drop-off area. Gabe Alvey, architect for Diekema Hamann, said the initial design is "very preliminary" and was done to determine if they could fit everything on the 14th Street site.
"Don't look at this as a final design at all," Alvey said. "Probably what's going to end up happening is that this will look very different. There are lots of things we can do to try and accommodate programs. These are all details we can work out."
Building the new school along Franke Road near West Middle School was also an option, but staff and parents felt that move would hurt the instructional priorities already set in place. One of those priorities are curricular walks, during which students walk through the neighborhood and visit businesses and places in the community.
Ashlea Walter, president of the Glenn Loomis PTO, said many of the parents are strongly connected to that piece of the curriculum.
"A lot of people really love that for their children," Walter said. "What we're seeing is more people come to an understanding of how important an in-town school is to have connection to the community."
Concerns were voiced about congestion during football games, particularly the Patriot Game between Traverse City West and Traverse City Central, but Thomas-Hill said it is not enough of a concern to "influence how we make a big decision like where to locate Glenn Loomis."
"Is it tight? Yes? Is it congested? Yes. Can we make it work? Yes," Thomas-Hill said.
Trustee Pam Forton said curricular issues should take precedence over difficulties finding somewhere to park during a football game.
"These might be inconvenient, but it's not as important as what the teachers and staff need to do to be effective," Forton said.
Trustees will discuss the matter before deciding at Monday's meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the TCAPS Administration Center.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct a reporter's error. The new Traverse City Area Public Schools Montessori school will be built directly east of Thirlby Field. — Feb. 12, 2019