New era begins for downsized district

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE — The first week back in class is always a challenge, but for Southgate Community Schools the beginning of the 2013-2014 academic year marked a new era for the district, downsized by three buildings from the previous year. Supt. William Grusecki said that the final day just three months ago also marked the final bell for Gerisch Middle School and Chorrman and North Pointe elementary schools.

“The biggest concern was getting everything moved on time,” Grusecki said. “There was all the normal summer stuff, waxing floors, with moving out of the closed buildings added to what the teachers were going through. Summer was as busy — if not busier — than I thought it would be.”

The decision to close three buildings was born last year when a reconfiguration committee recognized that the district’s $3 million-plus deficit could no longer be addressed by cutting services piece-meal. Reductions in recent years included eliminating bus transportation, privatizing janitorial services and closing the Anderson High School pool, but deeper cuts were needed. Information sessions were held before the approved plan was put into place.

For the new school year, Davidson Middle School now houses all sixth- through eighth-grade students, and all four high school grades attend Anderson.

It was tight, Grusecki said, and while the district had lost population from its peak of more than 5,000 students, the estimated 4,250 students fill the current buildings.

“We’re operating at maximum capacity now,” Grusecki said. He spent Tuesday visiting different schools and saw filled hallways at Anderson, which accounts for more than 1,400 of the district’s pupils. The elementary schools, he said, are each at more than 400 students compared to last year’s average of 300.

Although the reconfiguration resulted in about 30 layoffs, Grusecki said that many staff were retained. The former Gerisch administrators transitioned to Davidson Middle School, and the transitions maintained as much continuity as possible.

“It’s going very well,” Grusecki said with cautious optimism last week. “Everything fell into place and we were ready for the kids.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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