Fruitport restructuring plan shot down

Alex Doty • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:25 AM

Hedges, who has students in the elementary and middle school programs, was one of hundreds of concerned parents who attended a special board meeting at Fruitport High School.

Board members Elroy Buckner, Ted Cerniglia, Dave Hazekamp and Betty Kinney opposed the plan. Ben Gillette, Steve Keglovitz and Pat Stressman voted in favor of it.

“Our community rallied together and they heard us,” Hedges said.

The plan would have saved the district $375,000 and was a piece of a $1.6 million package to save the district money due to funding issues, administrators said.

The pieces approved Monday included changing the high school to a semester program and eliminating middle school team teaching.

Fruitport Superintendent Bob Szymoniak said the elementary program would have allowed consistent class sizes, made building sizes more equitable, and put teachers of the same grade together so they can improve and better respond to the needs of students.

Kindergarten and first-grade students would have gone to Beach, second- and third-grade students would attend Shettler, and fourth- and fifth-graders would have gone to Edgewood.

For busing, a K-3 run would’ve delivered students to Beach and Shettler elementary schools, and a grades 4-12 run would’ve delivered students to Edgewood Elementary School, Fruitport Middle School and Fruitport High School.

Parents said they were concerned with many aspects of the program, from bus safety to how well students would deal with changing schools so often.

“My kindergartner doesn’t adapt to change well — she’s very shy,” parent Amber Johnson said. “To change schools every two years, that’s not a lot of time to adapt.”

Johnson also said she moved to the area specifically so her child could attend Edgewood, and she was concerned a restructuring plan wouldn’t allow that to happen.

Szymoniak there is still a $900,000 deficit the district needs to close, and the district now needs to come up with a way to make class sizes more equitable and save money. He said this will likely be done by cutting staff through attrition and layoffs.

Hedges said she was hopeful that whatever future plans were discussed by Fruitport officials included community involvement.

“There’s a lot of talented people in our community who can come up with some fabulous ideas,” she said.

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