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Holt's plans for alt high school riles elementary parents

Holt?s Midway Elementary School. Buildings in the left background could become the district?s relaunched alternative high school.
WKAR photo.
Holt?s Midway Elementary School. Buildings in the left background could become the district?s relaunched alternative high school.

By Mark Bashore, WKAR


A failing grade for an alternative high school in Holt has administrators there preparing to overhaul the program. Holt Central High suffers from a zero percent college readiness score and a rough reputation. And, as WKAR's Mark Bashore reports, a number of families are upset about the school's proposed new location---next door to an elementary school.

Like all school districts, Holt has its challenges. Next year, it faces a potential $6 million budget deficit. It also wants to relaunch Holt Central with new programming, a new name and a new location. The goals overlap a little. The district could save around $100,000 a year by moving the school from its leased location. Its plan is to move it to the district's former administration offices---vacant property it owns. But that's right next door to Holt's Midway elementary school, which worries parents like Laura Davis.

"It's pretty plain and clear," she says. " There are students out there smoking, public displays of affection, the kind of behavior you might not want around 4th graders or younger. And. distractions."

Like fights and police interventions, which some describe as common. Adults worry about drugs and say the traffic situation on Spahr street is already a nightmare. They fret about more cars driven by young people.

Holt Superintendant Dr. Johnnie Scott says Midway parents' fears are based on a school that is about to be overhauled. Primarily, he says, no more open campus.

"The program we're moving to is a closed campus," he explains. "So those students won't have that type of freedom and flexibility and accessibility to just come and go."

And get in trouble. He also says planners are excited about a new, less expensive academic program, called Ombudsman. It's computer-focused with clustered work stations and personalized instruction. Scott calls it more business-like. He also explains that districts already locate alternative programs near younger students.

"Mason houses its alternative ed in the same building as the pre-school program," he says. "I think what districts do is they house programs where they have space."

But ironically, some families are already enrolling their kids at Midway to avoid the Mason program. Kelly Mitchell is the mother of a Midway kindergartner:

" 'cause their elementary school was tied in with their alternative ed and we weren't too pleased about that so we transferred here and (laughs) yeah, it concerns me," she says.

Parents suggest alternatives like moving to the district's 9th grade building---where administrators' offices are---and moving the administrators back next to Midway. Superintendant Scott says that's not an option because the state mandates a separate building for alternative students. Some say bus the kids to an established program at Lansing Community College. Scott says there's more enthusiasm for maintaining a program IN the district. With few apparent options, administrators say they'll consider anything within reason to alleviate Midway parents' concerns. John Malatinsky is the President of the Holt Board of Education.

"We've budgeted dollars to make it an acceptable place for all the individuals involved, particularly the kids on the elementary side," he says. "Privacy fencing do we need a berm?"

But the plan clearly upsets quite a few Midway parents, many of whom appear to be hearing about it for the first time. Connie Tackett is the parent of both a Midway second-grader and a former Holt Central student.

"If they put it next door, I would absolutely pull my second-grader out of this school and move her somewhere else," she says.

Holt's administration seems to enjoy a good reputation in the community. But it may be tested in coming weeks. The issue is on the Board of Education's agenda next Monday. Superintendent Scott and others will meet with the increasingly concerned Midway PTO on the 27th.

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