Esky school closure talks continuing

ESCANABA — The Escanaba School Board will take its time discussing the possibility of closing a school building and consolidating schools. Members of the board came to a consensus to not make any changes to the school district’s active school buildings for the 2019-20 school year during a meeting Monday.

Last month, Superintendent Coby Fletcher spoke about potentially closing a school building. He presented two options to the board. The first is closing Escanaba Upper Elementary (EUE) and moving sixth-graders to the Escanaba Junior High School and first- through fifth-graders to Lemmer or Soo Hill to save approximately $398,000. The second would close Soo Hill and move first- and second-graders to Lemmer and third- through sixth-graders to the EUE to save an estimated $313,000.

Fletcher also presented three potential timetables for action on school closures last month. One called for work to start in March and continue over the summer, the second had work taking place in multiple phases and the third was a conservative approach where no movement would be taken but the board would announce its intentions ahead of time and continue to study the situation.

During Monday’s meeting, Vice-President Bob Chaillier said he was uncomfortable deciding whether or not to close a school this soon in the process.

“I’m not ready to make a decision on consolidation — I would like to, at least, give it another year,” he said.

Trustee Jim Beauchamp agreed.

“There’s a lot at stake here,” he said.

Secretary Kathy Jensen, on the other hand, did not believe the board would be moving too quickly if it made a decision on school closures at this time.

“I don’t feel rushed in the least, and I’m not uncomfortable with it,” she said. She also mentioned there was still time for the board to discuss consolidation.

Fletcher said any of the timetables he mentioned would be workable.

“I want the board to know that I’m not bought into any one particular (timetable) there,” he said.

However, he noted the situation was urgent enough that the board could not afford to postpone discussion about it entirely. Fletcher will keep the board informed on topics related to school closures and the board will regularly discuss the possibility.