lansing school district

Cass Tech High School in Detroit.
DPS / Flickr

The Michigan Education Department and four of the state's school districts have been awarded nearly $3 million in federal grants to improve school safety and learning conditions.

The U.S. Education Department announced the grants as part of its effort to improve school safety around, reduce gun violence, and improve mental health services.

More from the U.S. Department of Education’s press release:

To help keep students safe and improve their learning environments, the U.S. Department of Education awarded more than $70 million to 130 grantees in 38 states…

“If we can’t help protect kids and staff, and make them feel safe at school, then everything else that we do is secondary,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “If kids don’t feel safe, they can’t learn. It’s that simple. Through these grants of more than $70 million, we are continuing our commitment to ensure that kids have access to the best learning experience possible.”

Here are the grants awarded in Michigan:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

When the final bell rings, students stream out of Lansing’s three public high schools. And sometimes that’s when the trouble begins.

In 2013, an after-school shooting outside Lansing’s Sexton High School injured four students.

City officials are hoping a new team of volunteers may help head off problems in the future. 

Police Chief Mike Yankowski says the “school watch” program will operate similar to a “neighborhood watch”, keeping an eye out for trouble during the hours after school.

Five thousand Lansing school students will be riding buses operated by a private company this fall.

The school board voted last night to privatize its bus system. Dean Transportation currently provides bus service to a consortium of Ingham County school districts.

When the Lansing School Board tabled a proposal to privatize its bus service in January, the issue seemed to be put on the back burner until next year.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing school district will continue to operate its own buses next year.

The school board decided Thursday not to go with a private bus company.

Supporters say privatizing the bus service would save the Lansing school district $5 million over the next five years, primarily because the district would not have to replace much of its aging bus fleet.

But school board president Peter Spadafore says now is not the time to privatize the bus service serving thousands of capital city school children.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing school board has put off a decision on whether to privatize the district’s bus service.

School officials say the proposal would save the district five million dollars over the next five years, primarily by not having to pay to replace dozens of aging school buses.

But the district’s unionized bus drivers raised questions about the plan.

Peter Spadafore is the school board president. He says giving the union one week to spell out its concerns is a good idea.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing school board last night approved the district's budget for next year.

The $142 million spending plan is $25 million smaller than the current year budget.    The district is tightening its belt, including laying off between 90 and 100 employees.

Yvonne Caamal Canul is Lansing’s school superintendent. She describes the budget plan as setting a baseline for the district, one the district can grow from in the future.

Right now, it’s about preparing for this fall. 

Preschool-age boy practicing writing his name at a table in a Head Start classroom.
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Update 2:17 p.m.

“The Superintendent is receiving calls from arts groups all over the state saying, ‘Why are you cutting the arts?’” says district spokesman Bob Kolt. “But it’s just not true…we’re contracting out those services to community artists.”

Kolt says the district will bring in about 10-20 “contractors” to help elementary classroom teachers with art, music and gym instruction.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing School District has reached a tentative contract agreement with its teachers union.

No details have been released. So it’s unclear whether the deal includes a provision to get around Michigan’s new Right to Work law. 

Lansing teachers’ tentative agreement comes at a time when other unions are racing to put contract extensions into place before Michigan’s new Right to Work law takes effect.

A handful of school districts and Wayne State University have signed extended contracts that would allow the unions to continue to enforce mandatory dues collection. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing school district will launch a multi-faceted plan this fall to improve student academic performance.  The plan is about more than just teaching.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing school board voted Thursday night to give the district’s superintendent two weeks notice.

Dr. T.C. Wallace has been the capitol city’s school superintendent since 2007.  

He agreed last year to leave the district at the end of this academic year. 

But the school board decided to speed up Wallace’s departure.  

The district is facing major restructuring questions  and an estimated budget deficit that could be as high as 20 million dollars.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing schools will undergo a major overhaul during the next two years, if a plan released last night is eventually adopted.  

The plan calls for closing three elementary schools and one high school during the next two years. Twenty other schools would also see major changes.  

Brian Ralph is the district’s COO. He says the plan would save two million dollars over the next two years. Ralph chastised those who suggest closing schools will help the district close its estimated $20 million deficit.  

“If we’re going to sit here today and say we got to close schools to balance the budget…we got to close everything down in Lansing," says Ralph.

District officials concede closing or changing schools is an emotional issue. Guillermo Lopez is a school board member. He says it will be important to put emotional connections aside. 

"Let us no waste a lot of time…fighting for something that is….not the best for our students," says Lopez. The school board plans to hold several community meetings over the coming months to get input on the plan. Key decisions may not come until August.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing School Board will be talking about closing schools tonight. Supporters of two city high schools are trying to keep them off the list.  

The Lansing School District is looking at a budget deficit that could be as high as $20 million.

Tonight, district officials will outline their plan to pare that number down, and closing some school buildings and reconfiguring other schools is part of that plan. 

Bill Morris is a member of ‘Save Our Sexton’, which is trying to keep Lansing’s Sexton High School off the closure list. He says they’ve been working with the Eastern High alumni group fighting its closure to get district officials to delay any decisions for a year.

"They do share many of the same goals, in terms of the future of the district," says Morris, "The only thing we really differ on is the building to close.  If a building has to be closed in this matter for the obvious reasons. School Board president Myra Ford says she’s been briefed on part of the plan. She expects no action will take place for a month because the plan may be more broad and effect more schools than most people expect.

Jack Amick / Flickr

Lansing teachers have approved a new one year contract that includes benefits cuts and layoffs.  Under the deal approved by Lansing teachers, the district will eliminate up to 95 positions.   The one year agreement also freezes wages, while increasing employee contributions to their health care plans.

The contract concessions are tied to the Lansing School District’s need to reduce a projected $18 million dollar budget gap.   The school board is expected to vote on the district’s budget for the next fiscal year this evening.

Patti Seidl is the president of the Lansing Schools Education Association.   She’s worried that the school district may seek additional wage and benefit concessions next year, when the new contract expires.