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Sharp decline in student population leads to new proposal to reconfigure elementary schools

North Ward Elementary School may be converted into a daycare next schoolyear
North Ward Elementary School in Allegan may be converted into an early childhood center.
Posted at 8:23 PM, Jan 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 20:38:36-05

ALLEGAN, Mich. — Allegan Public Schools hosted their first public meeting Tuesday night at the high school's conference center regarding the new recommendation to reconfigure its elementary schools from four schools to three.

Superintendent James Antoine, who's the author behind the recommendation, said the plan would be to convert North Ward Elementary into an early childhood education center.

“There will be childcare but that childcare will be curriculum-based with learning opportunities and an expanded preschool,” Antoine said during an interview with FOX 17 before the meeting. “We will also have our county pre-schools in there like GSRP and head start.”

He said that the district’s Young 5’s program will also be in the building.

Antoine added that even though he’s making this decision with the ‘best of intentions’ he understands that some people may see it as controversial.

“It’s difficult when you spent your life with certain individuals,” Antoine said. “You’ve built relationships and now a recommendation is that you need to go somewhere else and do those things. That can be upsetting to the community.”

Antoine said school officials made the decision to come up with the recommendation for a number of reasons, the main one being that the school’s overall population has dropped by 600 students since 2003.

Under his recommendation, the 270 students at North Ward now would move to either one of the other schools: Dawson, Pine Trails or West Ward.

“If the board was to approve the recommendation, some students are going to be leaving the building full of people that love them, that care about them, that support them and are going into another building.” Antoine said. “ Now what I know is that building will love them and care for them and support them.”

Antoine added that staff will also go to the other schools.

He said converting the building into a educational center will not only benefit them but the local economy too.

“The Learning Center would be a partnership with a learning center that would come and lease half of the building and that would create over 30 job opportunities for Allegan community members,” he said. “That’s a very exciting opportunity for our town.”

Next Meetings:

  • Friday January 31, 9a-10a at the High School Conference Center
  • Monday February 3, 7p-8p at the High School Conference Center