District adapts to incoming Inkster students

Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — Taylor School District Supt. Diane Allen knew that the start of this particular year would be busier than normal — “very, very busy,” she said last week — and that the addition of several hundred new students from the former Inkster district would pose unique challenges.

“And they’re still enrolling,” Allen said, and although numbers have yet to be confirmed she expects to start calling back teachers as early as this week to add classes.

“Some class sizes are quite high,” Allen said. Much of last week was spent reconfiguring classrooms and teaching assignments en route to a Thursday meeting with the teacher’s union. Allen hoped to have the request put before the school board tomorrow and get students situated as soon as possible.

Overall Allen said the transition went well, especially given the limited preparation period allowed after the decision was made in July to dissolve Inkster Public Schools and send an estimated 1,000 students to Taylor, Westwood, Romulus and Wayne-Westland schools for 2013-14.

Administrators scrambled to schedule registration and orientation sessions, which Allen said resulted in a relatively glitch-free opening day. Inkster students were evenly spread among six Taylor schools, Allen said.

Taylor’s most recent enrollment was 7,600 students, and is expected to near or exceed 8,000 this year.

“As far as the students coming in we’ve had no problems,” Allen said.

By the time the assigned Inkster students — those living south of Michigan Avenue and east of Middlebelt Road — had registered, the district had been ready to assign bus routes and schedules, and several open-house events welcomed the new families.

What remains to be decided was what to do with the district’s now-ownership of former Inkster buildings. Those, as with the student populations, were turned over to the four districts that absorbed the students.

“That part wasn’t thought out well,” Allen said. “The state divided up the kids and then said, here, take the buildings too.” Taylor was informed that Inkster’s ninth-grade academy, Meek-Baylor and a third school — which has been closed for 15 years — were now Taylor’s responsibility.

“We inherited those properties as part of the deal,” Allen said. “We have to do maintenance, security, insurance and utilities. We’re a deficit district, we can’t take on added expenses.”

Earlier this year Taylor launched a three-year debt-elimination plan to address a looming $19 million deficit. About a dozen staff were laid off and teachers took a 10 percent pay reduction to balance the budget.

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