$14-Million School Is Complete, But Will Not Open

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Ortonville, Mich.--There's a brand new, $14-million high school in Brandon Township, a quiet bedroom community in Michigan's Oakland County.

The "ultra-modern" school has computer-training facilities, word-processing equipment, a cable tv studio, and sophisticated vocational-training equipment.

What it lacks however, is the money to open its doors.

The brand-new Brandon High School will be ready for September's onslaught of students, but the school will stand vacant because school-district voters in April defeated a tax increase, thereby cutting the building's operating funds.

'Sign of the Times'

"It's a sign of the times," says the district's superintendent, Richard Wilson. "People want [the new school] open, but they can't afford it."

"It's a crime," adds Carol Hanson, whose 15-year-old daughter is a freshman at the district's old high school--which enrolls 87 more students than the 850 it has room for. The old high school's overcrowded conditions have forced Principal Richard Kremkow to set up classrooms on the auditorium stage and in storage areas. Combined, the high school, the middle schools, and the district's two elementary schools are 439 students above capacity. Supply and storage areas are used as makeshift classrooms in the middle school, and nine portable classrooms help ease overcrowding in the two elementary schools.

"The new high school is absolutely needed," says Mr. Kremkow, but not only because of overcrowding. "About 70 percent of our system's students don't go on to college," he explains. "These kids need the kind of vocational training the new school can give them. We hope the school can give them an edge on the job market."

Bills Paid by Taxpayers

Opening the new school for the 1982-1983 academic year would cost $300,000, according to officials of the district. Jerry Wabeke, assistant superintendent, estimates that just maintaining and heating the empty school will cost about $100,000 per year--a bill to be paid by taxpayers. So, for savings of about $200,000, the school will remain closed.

Residents voted for a new school board June 14, but strong anti-tax sentiment in the area pushed another proposed millage hike off the ballot, according to board members.

"We really haven't discussed it enough to know for sure when we'll have another vote on the millage," said a board member, Thomas Rogan. "There's always a chance in the fall."

Three years ago, the future promised prosperity for the community, located halfway between Flint and Pontiac. During the 1970's, Brandon's population nearly doubled. Unemployment was low and planners predicted more growth.

Residents in 1979 approved--by only eight votes out of 2,000 cast--bond sales to pay for the school's construction. Since then, however, the township's unemployment rate has soared to 28.2 percent, according to March estimates from the Michigan Employment Security Commission.

On April 5, the issue of funding the school's daily operations was presented to local voters. The millage was defeated by a margin of nearly 2 to 1.

'Economic Conditions'

"It's because of the economic conditions," says Township Supervisor William Wright. "It's tough to tell someone who's unemployed to vote for a tax increase. He's going to say no to property taxes because that's the only place he has a voice."

The proposed increase would have added $40 in taxes annually to a house with a market value of $40,000 and an equalized value of $20,000.

When--or if--the new high school opens, officials plan to shift students from the overcrowded elementary schools into the middle school. Middle-school students will move to the old high school.

Vol. 01, Issue 39

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

To Address Chronic Absenteeism, Dig into the Data

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Keep Your Schools Safe and Responsive to Real Challenges

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

3 Unique Learner Profiles for Emerging Bilinguals

Effective Questioning Practices to Spur Thinking

Empower Reading Teachers with Proven Literacy PD

Student Engagement Lessons from 3 Successful Districts

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >