School move plan raises concerns

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — A plan to close a special needs school building and open another has some parents concerned.

Students from Madison Elementary School will attend classes at Taft Elementary School, which will be reopened for next school year.

The move, approved 5-1 at Tuesday’s Wyandotte Public Schools Board of Education meeting, first was brought before members in April as a way to improve the surroundings for the students, Supt. Patricia Cole said. Taft, which was built in 1956, was renovated in 1992. Madison has not been renovated since it was built in 1973.

But many parents who attended Tuesday’s meeting voiced concerns about the safety of their children in the new school. Concerns included a lack of bathrooms in the classrooms, no overhead sprinkler system and the short distance between the school and busy Goddard Road. None of the school buildings in the district have overhead sprinkler systems, as it is not required by the city’s fire code.

Amy Gilsdorf, whose son, Jacob, currently attends Madison, said the traffic is one of her biggest concerns.

“He will run out of that door before you can grab him,” she said. “He will get hit by a car before you can grab him.”

Trustee Jerry Kupser, the only member to vote against the plan agreed, said residents of that street are not used to having to watch out for children. He also noted two other incidents in the district in the last nine years in which children have been struck by vehicles.

“I think there’s something that can be done, and I don’t think Taft is the answer,” he said.

Kupser instead suggested using Taft for a mainstream school and using the first floor of Jefferson for Madison students. That way, he said students from the latter school, some of whom are wheelchair-bound, would not have to use the stairs.

Carla Harting, president of special education and child accounting, said that would not be an option, as the students would occupy 21 of the school’s 23 rooms.

She also addressed other issues. The second floor of Taft would be reserved for the most ambulatory students, she said. She also said the lack of bathrooms in classrooms could be a learning opportunity for the students, who would be continuously supervised while moving from their classrooms to the restrooms. Some classrooms in the school do have restrooms, but those would be reserved for the youngest children, she said.

“We want to be able to teach our children to go to bathrooms,” Harting said. “One of the things that prevent parents from taking their children out is the use of bathrooms.”

Harting also said she will meet with the Police Department to discuss potential traffic issues before the school opens. Residents of 22nd Street, which was used as a staging area for buses bound for Madison School, recently approached the City Council to complain about traffic backup resulting from those buses.